One of my favorite things is to see citizen engagement with our government, and voting is at the very heart of participation. So I was excited to see the unusually high mid-term voter turnout this year.
As citizens, we took matters into our own hands when the state legislature was too short-sighted to remedy matters. We looked at facts, considered the financial and moral angles, and voted to pass a citizen-led measure to extend health coverage to our neighbors.
However, just voting isn’t enough. We’ve done the hard work of collecting signatures and passing a ballot measure. Now, it’s time to hold our representatives accountable. Because we aren’t a direct democracy, it’s especially important that we examine what our representatives are doing on our behalf since they aren’t always going to act in our best interests. We need to be especially careful with regard to representatives who become complacent, holding on to power, even as they ignore their constituents.
Maintaining our freedoms in a civil society isn’t just about voting. It’s about making sure our representatives truly are working to “promote our common welfare,” a charge set forth in the preamble to Idaho’s constitution. And to do that, we must remain engaged as citizens in our state.
We voted “yes” on Prop 2. But we also elected leaders and legislators who have indicated that they might fight against its adequate implementation. So, we need to watch closely. We need to ask tough questions, demand answers and insist upon dialogue. Our representatives should be willing to face us and answer questions even when they’re uncomfortable.
Does the majority always get it right? Of course not. Look at the oppression that various marginalized groups have experienced throughout our history. Alexis de Tocqueville was not wrong when he pointed to the “tyranny of the majority.” But the majority is not always wrong, either. And the majority is not wrong when its instincts point to a more inclusive society.
Prop 2 is a good example of the majority of Idahoans being right, while our representatives balked at their duties. We’ve written letters and made phone calls. Our state leaders have said for several years that something needs to be done. They’ve acknowledged the need and given lip service to the will of the people. And failed to act.
As citizens, we need to do the sometimes-tedious work of holding our representatives accountable. No matter their party.
So that is our task moving forward. Pay attention. Look at the individuals. Follow their legislation. Ask questions. George Washington warned, at the beginning of this great American experiment, that a party system could lead to corruption and leaders who didn’t have our welfare at heart.
Our job as citizens is to make sure no one becomes complacent just because of the letter behind their name.