Monday was the last day to register to vote for the midterm elections in California. For months, USC students have been encouraged to take steps to register to vote; there have been registration events, countless emails and posters hung around campus. Hopefully, it has had some impact.
But registering to vote is just the first and, frankly, the easiest step in the display of citizenship.
As U.S. citizens, we must all take this responsibility seriously and act accordingly on Nov. 6. But the real display of citizenship goes far beyond merely voting; it is about making informed decisions of who and what to vote for in each particular race. A true citizen is not swayed by political advertisements or the popularity of a candidate. Although they certainly might take such factors into account, ultimately, truely responsive citizens research candidates and their platform points for themselves. One should not vote for a candidate because they identify as a Republican or as a Democrat. The voting process is only truly democratic when citizens base their decisions on candidates’ platforms, rather than personality and party.
It’s essential for voters to examine what positions they value and the hierarchy of issues most important to them. However, it’s virtually impossible for one candidate to embrace every socially important issue.
I encourage voters to endorse ideas, rather than candidates. Don’t value positions because a candidate offers them; instead, value candidates because they take certain stances.
At the end of the day, it’s vital to discuss these policies, not only with with those who agree with you, but also with the individuals who prioritize issues differently and who oppose you on an issue. Too often, people associate themselves with friends who share similar political beliefs, and are inclined to unfriend (sometimes in real life, sometimes on Facebook) those who disagree. It’s important to remember that political beliefs can be separated from individuals’ personalities and relationships with their peers.
I encourage political discussion that breeds discomfort. This discussion should be challenging and exercise the necessity to maintain your beliefs while under scrutiny from those who disagree. Most importantly, it’s crucial to have an open mind. Do not be ashamed of changing your position on certain issues because engaging in a policy debate rooted in stubbornnes does nothing and helps no one. Having an open mind will help you refine your position, and help you look at something from an entirely new perspective.
As we approach Nov. 6, I implore every reader to think about how long they spent researching the issues and candidates on their respective ballot before they share their “I voted!” stickers online. Have they spent more time researching candidates for the upcoming election or reading this column? If the answer isn’t the former, then they should reconsider their priorities as American citizens.
Shauli Bar-On is a sophomore majoring in political science. His column, “The Bar-On Brief,” runs every other Tuesday.