Should Citizenship and Voting Become Your Part Time Job?

Should Citizenship and Voting Become Your Part Time Job?

By Andrew Tripodo of The Iceberg Initiative

For a system of government that claims to exist to serve our needs, it sure does ask a lot.  But that’s the contradiction of democracy: it’s here for us, but only if we’re there for it.

Democratic government guarantees the general population a baseline level of respect and efficacy because the general population is always, ultimately, in charge. But anybody who has managed people knows that it’s hard to be in charge – it requires constant attention. You need to be on your A-game, all the time. If you overlook something – sleep late, get sick, get drunk – people get screwed. Democracy asks us to manage our own government alongside millions of others, many of whom we find stupid or offensive.

Democracy asks a lot.

We have things to do: money to make, people to care for, fun to have – and we have to devote time to governing too!? Yeah, that’s probably not gonna happen. We’re probably gonna forget to do that piece of homework. Who is grading it? The general public? Word, never heard of em. Even if I have, I def won’t see them at the next office holiday party.

Democracy asks a lot.

We have things to do: money to make, people to care for, fun to have – and we have to devote time to governing too!?  We don’t get paid to be responsible citizens who hold our elected officials accountable. And there’s no obvious, materially relevant reward for reading up on the details of every policy proposal. Nor is there one for going out of our way to understand the diverse perspectives of our fellow citizens.

We have things to do: money to make, people to care for, fun to have – and we have to devote time to governing too!?  

It’s hard to be a responsible citizen. It requires regular research, deep thinking, empathy for your fellow citizens, and a temperament that allows for difficult compromise. Most of us are too busy for all that. We’re already overwhelmed by other priorities – material survival, love, friendship, health, our dog’s health, etc. Asking people to intelligently self govern is a big, probably unrealistic ask. The problem is that it’s also essential. There’s simply no other way to guaranteed that the government doesn’t exploit us and our fellow citizens in small and sometimes big ways. We have to be in charge, as annoying as that is.

It’s hard to be a responsible citizen. It requires regular research, deep thinking, empathy for your fellow citizens, and a temperament that allows for difficult compromise.

If the public cannot engage in informed, intelligent debate about issues that affect everyone’s lives, then our leaders will make decisions in the dark and invent half-assed justifications for them. If we are so out of the loop as to be unable to call them out, we are making ourselves vulnerable to the exact type of elite exploitation that democratic government was supposed to vanquish.

Let’s read more newspapers, let’s debate people who disagree with us, let’s research issues that affect us and our fellow citizens, and let’s demand smart government from those who are supposed to represent us.

Consider this: If you don’t put the time into being a thoughtful citizen, who are your “representatives” representing?


Andrew Tripodo is a co-founder of The Iceberg Initiative, an American organization depolarizing discussion around politics.  Read Iceberg co-founder Niki Davis’ recent blog on Equity and Equality here.

The Iceberg Initiative is an American organization dedicated to getting people talking about ideas that affect us all.
The Iceberg Initiative is an American organization dedicated to getting people talking about ideas that affect us all.

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