Through the years, politics in America has remained a vital arena where citizens are able to exercise their freedoms as well as their right to participate in governance. This becomes exceedingly evident when elections are near and the diverse opinions of ordinary citizens are made clear. Probably the most unmistakable illustration of this freedom is the passionate and often antagonistic exchange of opinions during the past two presidential elections.
Colorful Personalities All
The presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls created a colorful arena where the most conservative as well as the most radical were regularly aired. President Obama, the first African- American president, joined the campaign using the single-word slogan, “HOPE.” He won the elections but not before being raked through the coals. During the campaign he was labeled many things including a terrorist. He was also accused of not being an American being less than a desirable president because he had grown up outside of the United States. His victory was due in part to young voters and the use of social media.
John McCain, presidential candidate of the Republican Party, was just as thoroughly attacked during elections. His private life was turned inside out and he was faulted for not offering solid alternatives to what his camp was accusing Obama of. Many voters felt that he, and especially his vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, spent all their time talking against Obama rather than presenting their own programs. McCain conceded defeat in such a beautifully moving speech many commented if he had spoken as well during his campaign he probably would have won.
Sarah Palin, vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party, was possibly the most colorful personality of the lot. Singlehandedly, she attracted the most attention with her fumbles on TV and her extremely strong opinions. She has become an icon for the rightist Tea Party. While she may never set foot in the White House as president, she is said to have earned millions from her own book deal.
The debates before presidential elections have been a long-standing tradition for the United States. Most voters will keep a watchful eye on the debates to see how well candidates respond to issues they consider priorities. Most people in the past elections listened keenly for what candidates have to say about foreign policy, abortion, gay marriage, and terrorism. Those who go through all the debates faithfully usually know beforehand what topics will be taken up in each debate; others wait only for the debates that are relevant for their own concerns.
For people in their 50’s and 60’s, one hot item in the last presidential election was the security of retirement benefits. For many young families the deployment of troops became a major point of interest, while for others the outsourcing of jobs was critical. The debates have become a crucial scale because people believe that the candidates’ responses show the direction a candidate will take once elected.
Future Public Participation
While many are amazed at what seems to be vigorous public participation in political discourse in the United States, the sad fact is this discourse does not translate to an equally vigorous voter turnout.
Statistics show that in 2000 there was a turnout rate of 54.2%, in 2004 this was 60.4%, and in 2008 a total of 62.3% cast their ballots. This upward trend has not been sustained; only 57.5% of eligible voters exercised their right to vote in 2012. From these figures it is evident that not enough people appreciate how important their vote is and how it can help transform the political landscape from rhetoric to actual reform.