America is a democratic country which means that most decisions that affect the country are subject to a discussion within the government. The public also plays a vital role in decision making; they are involved in most decision making either directly or through a representative. The ability of citizens being able to make decisions by themselves or through a representative makes the country an indirect democracy; where most of the decisions are made based on a simple majority.
The topic of this paper is Political Participation in the United States.
Political Participation can be defined as any kind of action that affects or changes a political sphere within a country. It can, therefore, be noted that political participation involves a wide range of activities. Such activities include communicating with a representative through a letter, attending rallies, and finally, voting. In the United States, the process of political participation is greatly valued. The reason for this is because it provides people with the chance to express their opinions and choices (Conway).
However, statistics prove that not every person wishes to participate in the political sphere because of their perception that it only benefits a few individuals (the representatives or those who have the favor of the representative).
Therefore, political participation is associated with people of a higher social and economic status, and they are most likely to participate in the political process when compared to the lower social classes within society. This fact has made concerned parties create awareness about the political participation within the country because there has been a decreased level of participation among citizens when it comes to political activities in the U.S.
The decreased level of participation has been linked to various influential factors that will be discussed at a later stage (Dalton 76).
To begin with, what are the types of participation that occur within the political process? In The United States, the most common type of political participation is voting. Voting provides a means of selecting a representative and other government officials. Therefore, voting is defined as the act of making a collective decision by choosing a representative for a group of people within a specific region (Conway). From the definition, it is clear that voting is the primary means by which people in the United States participate in politics.
Its benefits make it a special kind of political act because it allows people to express themselves by providing their opinions through the selection of a leader of their own choice in the voting process. Basically, each voter is entitled to one vote which equally counts when it comes to the final results (Krueger 498).
Another form of political participation is through campaign activities. The campaign process involves a political candidate seeking popularity and support from supporters who in turn vote for him or her during the voting process. Participating in campaigns takes shape in various ways. Some people will work for a political party and advocate for their candidate in a general election.
Also, they can engage in events, sometimes organizing the event themselves and other times they can share different ideas with their family members and the people within their social circle. Apart from campaigns, there is protesting as a way of political participation. Protesting involves people forming unconventional riots against unfair political views.
From the above descriptions, it is evident that there are many ways in which people can be involved in political participation, and the descriptions mentioned above are the core ways of participation. However, there are other possible customs which include running for public offices, contributing financially to campaigns, and creating awareness.
Secondly, another major topic of discussion in this essay is who is eligible to participate in political activities and why they should participate in political scenarios. Different kinds of research state that political participation is linked to various social and economic characteristics (Krueger 480).
Generally, the classification of people who participate in politics within the United States is based on the age bracket of concerned individuals, their education levels, and any eligible person regardless of gender and race. For the most part, individuals at the age of 18 years and above are eligible to participate in any kind of political activity. They can participate in any of the above mentioned political activities so long as they are willing to. Conway states that participation is on personal grounds, and it is important to not force a person to participate.
Apart from age, the level of education also can be a determinant when it comes to political participation.
For instance, there are certain political offices that require a certain level of education. Basically, they are the basic requirements that make a person eligible to run for a state office.
In this case, the illiterates are disadvantaged. Most of them will only participate on ground levels and can rarely run for any office because of their levels of education. From the explanation above, it is true that education and age form part of the basic requirements needed by an individual to participate in political activity.
However, gender and race do not qualify as determinants; they are discriminating factors that limit people from political participation. Generally, what matters is that one meets the requirement which makes them eligible for political participation.
On another angle, different reasons determine why people strive to engage in political participation. One major reason is being able to make the right decision by selecting the right representatives. Secondly, some participate because they are a target of the efforts involved in mobilization by interest groups and political parties. Thirdly, people are bound to gain from political participation in one way or another. For instance, most people who venture in organizing political rallies will have gained something at the end of the day.
From a personal level, these are the core reasons as to why people engage in political participation.
From a different perspective, there are paradoxes that are associated with political participation. The political participation processes, especially voting, is considered irrational in the United States. It happens all over the world, but, to be more specific in the United States, (one of the largest countries in the world) people believe that their vote does not make a change in any way (Dalton 89). To be precise, people believe that one vote never changes the outcome of an election, thereby, limiting their involvement in practicing their political rights to vote.
They believe that their vote is microscopic. Apart from that, people believe that political participation has a cost which comes in differenct forms.
The first potential cost is the stress and effort it takes to choose a credible candidate based on his or her manifesto. The other potential cost is the time commitment required to vote and waiting for the results. For various different reasons, many people do not see the need to participate in political activities. From my findings, they argue that the cost of participation is by far much too expensive compared to the benefits that come as a result of participation.
To be honest, one vote does not make a change to a person who wants to make an impact within the government (Conway). However, the vote will always count in the instance where people with the same ideology want to effect change and this can only be done by voting.
From the paradox, it is noted that there are elements that influence people not to participate in the political sphere.
These elements have resulted in an irrational view towards voting which has been a cause of a reduced political participation in the United States. Mostly, many people in the country participate in politics because of idealism (Dalton 83). To expand on this, most people participate in politics only because a candidate’s (a candidate of their choice) ideas make more sense compared to his competitors. Therefore, they will always favor ideas that will be fruitful at the end of the day.
Apart from that, participation is greatly influenced by race within the American states.
Individuals will more often choose a person of their own race with an expectation that the representative will support their grievances other than promoting equality in making decisions. Dalton (79) affirms that America is a multiracial nation, and this is bound to happen at various levels of representation. Age is another determinant to the significant drop in political participation, and it comes with a certain influence that is felt by the whole nation during a political event. Research indicates that people at the age of 18 to 24 rarely participate in politics despite forming a considerable population within the country. The young adults more often engage in other activities mainly because politics does not benefit them in any way.
The perception makes them think it is not beneficial in their life despite the many government initiated projects aimed at promoting the youths.
Lastly, education also has an impact when it comes to influencing political participation. As stated earlier, most people of a higher social and economic status know the importance of political participation. With that, they are known to greatly contribute to politics compared to those with a low status within the community.
In conclusion, political participation is crucial within the United States. Being a democratic country, people are bound to make political judgments, and this is supported by the content from the discussion above.
However, political participation has become a controversial topic because of the paradox associated with it. Despite all that, people still participate in politics with an aim of making a change to the nation. Despite all the effort, the quest for making changes is influenced by age, race, social and economic status, and education.
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