Democracy is Boring

The Nov. 3 elections in Northampton tell a story of privilege, complacency and amnesia. The vast majority of registered voters didn’t show up because they 1) are happy with the way things are; 2) don’t care to participate in democracy because of the What-Difference-Does-It-Make dodge; 3) forgot why those Yankees threw tea into the harbor; or 4) our local candidates didn’t hurl bigoted insults at each other nor whine to the media about the quality of the questions.

Though—and it fills me with remorse to say so—I agreed with Sen. Ted  Cruz when he characterized the moderators at CNBC’s recent so-called debate as silly.

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said. He continued his admonishment with crowd-pleasing cadence, content and context. Damn!

He reminded CNBC debate panelists John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick:

“This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions – Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? (If only, then he wouldn’t be a presidential candidate); Ben Carson, can you do math? (Yes, but his words still don’t add up); John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? (Over here, over there, over where? Everywhere!); Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? (OK, this is legit); Jeb Bush, why are your numbers falling? (Maybe he doesn’t care because he believes that the Supreme Court will anoint him the next president—erroneously, because now we have a thrilling new version of The Supremes: Ruth, Sonia and Elena on the pro-democracy side.)

Cruz’s crescendo landed with the most credible question of the evening: “How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”

Substantive issues people care about include health care for everyone; innovative educational systems that allow teachers to do their noble jobs; police departments that protect and serve all people every day; wars that don’t start nor are expanded because of failed diplomacy; and jobs that pay enough to lift people out of poverty.

That is why democracy matters, even if C-SPAN has lulled many into thinking that voting for city councilors and library trustees is sleep-inducing and the gang at CNBC doesn’t know journalism 101.

National politicians are not the only ones talking about these and other issues. Local politicians also debate ideas, and giving them a free pass on election day now can have significant consequences down the road.

Most national politicians started their careers in local government, in small cities just like Northampton. Some kept getting re-elected and ended up in Congress. Some are great and some are for shame.

The Staten Island DA who couldn’t convict a bee if he saw it sting him, also couldn’t convict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer filmed choking Eric Garner to death. That DA, Daniel Donovan Jr., is now a member of Congress. He’s a lawmaker.

How? Because not enough people voted.

The Washington Post reported a few days ago that 50 national sports teams divided $53 million paid by the Defense Department to showcase wasteful displays of paid-for patriotism – Air Force jets, humongous flags – at their games.

Because, you know, major sports leagues are in dire need of more money.

And this happened because few people stray from their selfie-absorbed lives to read real news stories, substantive stories, and even fewer go out to vote for the people who control the purse strings.

Just about 16 percent of those registered voted in Northampton last week. Is it because City Councilors Bill Dwight, Jesse Adams, Maureen Carney, Paul Spector, Ryan O’Donnell, Gina-Louise Sciarra, David Murphy, Marianne LaBarge and Alisa Klein are awesome?

They are, but shouldn’t most voters be telling them that, or something else, on Election Day?

Where I come from, Puerto Rico, voter turnout is typically close to 80 percent. Whether we are impoverished or wealthy, formally educated or self-taught, brilliant or not the brightest bulb, whatever our situation, we vote in droves and are proud to stand in line at the polls, and even more resolved when we are surrounded by people who are voting for the other guy.

In our very young democracy – we’re just 67 – we have made our own colossal mistakes on top of those made by the U.S., which resulted in a $72 billion debt and triggered recent massive migrations from Puerto Rico to the U.S.

But none of our mistakes has been to take democracy for granted; any country that has suffered through dictatorships, be it 68 years ago or 239 years ago, should remember that hard lesson.

Natalia Muñoz is a freelance journalist and multicultural marketing consultant. Listen to Vaya con Muñoz on WHMP 1400 AM Wednesdays at 9:30 am.

This article appeared originally in The Daily Hampshire Gazette.