I started to write a paper about an issue brought up in both the first and last presidential debates, so that I could compare the different views, and weigh in on my opinion of that particular issue. What I realized while trying to decide on a topic to cover, was that the issues which are closest to my own heart, were not given adequate coverage. I am a citizen who has always waited in anticipation for my ballots to arrive, ever since I turned 18. For the last four years, every single time I received a ballot in the mail, I have dropped everything and exercised that great American right to have a small voice in the way our country is run, and vote.
This election, I wanted to hear about the candidates’ views on equality here in our country. Controversial issues such as abortion, equal pay for women, racial equality, undocumented persons, equality for the GLBTQ population, views on paid maternity leave for US women (we have none!), and how the candidates planned to correct the gross gender imbalance in our government – 16.8% of Congress is women, 17% of the Senate, and 16.8% of the House of Representatives (Women in the US Congress 2012) – even though females make up a little over half the US population. (USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau). That is 180 women out of 1,070 seats speaking for almost 157 million women. A horrifically small number.
I listened intently for how the candidates planned to correct the Justice Gap- A term describing the phenomena we are currently experiencing in our justice system, where reporting rates for sexual assault are on the rise, yet prosecution and conviction rates for these cases are staying relatively static in a country where someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and the lowest estimates say 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. I wanted to hear about all of these issues, and ones I have not mentioned, but I was sorely disappointed, again and again.
What I heard instead, were two privileged men arguing over issues that- while valid- seemed scripted and only spoken of to boost numbers in polls. They spoke of job creation, healthcare, foreign relations, and the economy- empty promises in my eyes, as I have heard all politicians say the same things time and time again, and not deliver. Facts are facts, our economy is in the toilet, a great number of Americans are unemployed, the same countries either hate, or love America that always have, the rich are getting richer, and the poor, poorer, and I am still the only one of my friends who has a job good enough to have great health insurance on my own, and have a parent who has a job good enough to provide me with a second health insurance policy. I am only 22, and admittedly have not been in this world long, but to me, it seems that politics are rarely about bettering people’s lives, and instead about who can make superficial promises that are believed by more people.
I take issue with this -perhaps naïve, perhaps jaded- observation of United States politics. I work at a job where I have to turn away a family in need of shelter, every 20 minutes due to lack of space and funding, and get calls as far away as the East Coast, begging for help while their children are being abused. These people have no one in the federal government championing their causes; just an overworked, underpaid, highly trained, 22 year old advocate and her coworkers, answering the only 24 hour crisis line in Western Washington who can only offer inadequate words of comfort because all resources have been exhausted- while on TV, they only see two rich men squabbling about whether or not we can pay back China. Where are the candidates who will fight for my 10 year old client who was raped and set on fire by his 11 year old neighbor, and couldn’t get a protection order? For the 4 year old girl who was sodomized with a coat hanger by her father? For the mother of four, who has moved 16 times in the last year to escape her wealthy ex-husband who hits her 7 year old in the face with a belt when he is angry, and has followed her across the country threatening to take her children away from her? Where are THOSE candidates? I have yet to see them appear on the political scene.
It is due to my experiences in the last few years, that this election, I did something I never would have expected to do. I received my ballot like millions of other Americans, and after hesitating for a moment over the candidates for the Republican and Democratic parties, I checked the box next to another candidate- one who will never win. Some might say I threw my vote away, and perhaps I did, but after watching the Presidential debates, I found it hard to put my faith in either Romney, or Obama.
“USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.” USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. US Census Bureau, 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html>.
“Women in the US Congress 2012.” Cawp.rutgers.edu. Center for American Women and Politics, 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/fast_facts/levels_of_office/documents/cong.pdf>.