The Daily Star, Hammond, Louisiana, on better citizenship

July 8
The Daily Star, Hammond, Louisiana, on better citizenship:
Whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, one thing a growing number of American citizens share is distrust of the major political parties. According to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, one-quarter of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats said they dislike their own party. A majority of survey respondents gave unfavorable views to both Democrats and Republicans, and a quarter of them said they dislike both parties.
The poll found 35 percent trusted neither party to handle the federal budget and 34 percent trusted neither Democrats nor Republicans to manage the federal government or address the concerns of average citizens. The poll asked respondents if they had faith in either party to handle economy, immigration, health care, the nation’s reputation among other countries and seven other key issues. More than 1 in 5 said no.
Even so, people still choose to affiliate with a political party. The two strongest reasons cited in the survey were long-time identity with the party and belief in party ideology despite unhappiness with certain aspects. Americans who call themselves Republicans think of themselves as conservatives, and those who describe themselves as Democrats connect with liberalism. Citizens in general associate Republicans with being supporters of the wealthy and businesses and supporters of small goverment. They associate Democrats with being supporters of working people, bigger government or more spending.
As citizens unhappy with government and distrusting of elected officials, we often point a finger at “them” and forget that most of our fingers are pointing back at “us.” Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: Am I a registered voter? Do I actively read newspapers and follow other media or social networks to keep up with election dates and to know what’s on the ballots? Do I make a real effort to learn about the candidates and the issues? Do I think about it and make my own decisions, or do I base my decisions on what my friends think? Am I among the 10 or less percent who actually vote in elections? How can I expect my elected leaders to be honest if I’m not honest with myself? How can I expect them to do better if I don’t do a better job of selecting them, monitoring them, giving them guidance and demanding accountability?
We can complain about politics, politicians and our country’s downward spiral, but our words are just hot air if we are not informed, participating citizens.
This country already has plenty of hot air. What’s needed is change, and change doesn’t happen in Washington or Baton Rouge. It happens where we live. Change happens with each citizen, each vote, one by one.
Candidates for Tangipahoa Parish School Board, Hammond mayor and Hammond city council are already campaigning for the Nov. 4 election. Let’s start learning about them as well as the proposals to change the Tangipahoa Parish charter. Let’s stop by the registrar of voters offices in Hammond or Amite to become a registered voter if we are not already, and call the registrar’s office to provide information about any changes in voter identification. Now is the time.

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