Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Political Participation

For my blog I chose to write about political participation and the ways in which we as students can participate in our political system. According to the online Webster’s Dictionary “political participation is the active engagement by individuals and groups with the governmental processes that affect their lives.” Political participation is an important part of our society in many ways because it directly affects our lives and the ways in which we are able to live them. Political participation allows people to support and elect leaders that they feel will do the best job running the United States. Political participation is a process which we as Americans should become more involved in because it is what is going to truly determine the way in which our future and current generations will function. In this blog entry I will discuss the two types of political participation that are commonly used when participating politically and the three theories of political participation which help form the ways in which we participate.

In the political system of the United States there are two forms of political participation that we as American citizens can participate in. The first form that I would like to discuss is the conventional form of political participation because it is the most common form in which we participate in. According to “conventional form of communications consists of Voting, letter writing, contact with representatives, working on campaigns, and campaign contributions.” Gregson 1997)

Conventional participation's is the most productive and effective way for the everyday American to participate in our political system. Unfortunately, out of all the people in the United Sates only 72% of eligible voters voted in the national election but only 47% participated in local elections in 2009.” (Richards 2009) To me, this is unacceptable amount of participation by Americans when it comes to political participation. I believe that it is important for all Americans to participate in our political system because it has a direct outcome on both their lives and the lives of their families. Conventional political participation is also important because if no one participates in our political system than it can “cause instability and complete system failure.”(Gregson 1997)

The next form of political participation that I would like to discuss is the unconventional way in which people participate. Unconventional forms of communication consist of marching, demonstrations, boycotts, sit-ins, and the use of violence. These “Unconventional activities might be legal but are not considered appropriate, such as participating in a protest march. Illegal unconventional means of participation include burning draft cards, bombing government buildings, and repressing other people's participation.” (Gregson 1997) Although this form of political participation is not as effective as the conventional form is, many people still choose to use this unconventional method to express their views and opinions. I myself have never participated in an unconventional form of political participation but I have known friends who have. They rallied in a protest against the new health care reform bill that president Obama is trying to pass. They told me that even though this form of political participation made them feel like a part of the greater picture, their protest turned out to be very unsuccessful in expressing their views. This leads me to believe that the conventional form of political participation is the most effective when trying to make change and express your political opinion.

“Both conventional and unconventional forms of political participation can be limited by the economic and social needs of the participants and this often times dictates the amount for political participation that Americans participate in.” (Gregson 1997) Whether Americans participate conventionally or unconventionally in our political system is determined by their needs and social ideals. Political participation is important to our society and can determine the future of America as a whole.

The next idea that I would like to discuss is the three models of political participation and the reasons why these models are important. The first model of political participation is the democratic elitism model. According to the journal article State and Society: Political Participation “Democratic elitists are primarily concerned with the problem of sustaining political stability; democracy is of secondary importance. They argue that enlightened leadership, sanctioned by minimal acts of participation by the masses, is the best way to maintain order.” (Richards 2009) This theory argues that limited participation in our political system is better for the system overall because many Americans in current day society are ignorant of ideas and simply do not possess the knowledge that is required to be a political participant. Many people argue against this theory and they do not agree that Americans are too ignorant or uneducated to vote. According to Manhattan Institute origination “the estimated national public school graduation rate in 2008 was 71 percent.”(Greene 2008) This to me proves that our society is fairly uneducated when it comes to casting their political vote. Do we want people who are uneducated participating politically? This theory of political participation says that we should not allow these uneducated Americans to taint our political system with their uneducated contributions. Personally, I agree with this theory of political participation because Americans are not helping our political system by randomly casting their votes.

The next model of political participation that I would like to discuss is the rational choice theory. According to the journal article State and Society: Political Participation “rational choice theorists believe that a lack of willingness to participate by the majority is a sign not of their ignorance, but of their rationality.”(Richards 2009) This theory is based on the wants and needs of Americans and if you have no interest in participating politically, then they should not participate at all. Participation in this theory is based on the want for change in our political system by American citizens. If they do not want to participate or they do not hold any interest in politics, than it is better for them not to participate at all. I also agree with this theory because when we politically participate, we are doing so to make a change in our lives and our political system. If Americans vote blindly and do not research before they vote, they are not only wasting our time but our money as well. Overall I feel that you should only participate politically if you understand what you are talking about and feel the need to make a change.

The third and final model of political participation that I would like to talk about is the Participatory theories of democracy. “In contrast to these two other theories, participatory theories see political involvement as developmental: participation is more than a method of governing; it serves the wider purposes of cementing civil society together, and educating citizens in the art of governance.” (Richards 2009) This theory helps to educate citizens on how the government functions and the ways in which we as American citizens can make an impact on our political system. I find this to be a very important theory because if people are not educated on how to participate politically in our democracy than they will make uneducated decisions and weaken our political system. There are many ways in which this policy helps our society as a whole and I believe it is the first theory that should be examined before participating politically. This theory helps to “strengthening local government, and extending democratic practice into the institutions of civil society, as well as increasing opportunities for the use of national referendums and citizen-led policy initiatives.” (Richards 2009) Overall this theory not only helps our political system as a whole but it also provides citizens with the proper ideas and political competence to cast a strong vote for what they believe in.

In conclusion both the ways in which we politically participate in our political system and the political models that we use to do so, are to me the most important factors to consider before politically participating in our democracy. If you can understand these models of political participation then it will allow you not only to participate in politics but will allow us as citizens to truly make a difference. If you have questions about how to politically participate and you truly want to make a difference, than you should visit this website It will provide you with further information about the models of political communication and help you to figure out where you stand when it truly comes down to participating effectively.

Work Cited

Greene, Jay. "High School Graduation Rates in the United States." Civic Report. Apr. 2002. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. .

Gregson, Kimberly. "Community Networks and Political Participation: Developing Goals for System Developers." ASIS. 14 May 1997. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. .

Hollihan, Thomas A. Uncivil Wars: politcal Campaigns in the Media Age. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martins, 2009. Print.

“Political Participation." 12 Feb. 2005. Web. 15 Sept. 2009.

Richards, Greg "State and Society: Political Participation." Web. 15 Sept. 2009. .

1 comment:

  1. The state of political participation in America is inexcusable, and not just in terms of sheer volume of those participating. While your statistics regarding the number of voters in last year's election are appalling in themselves, they pale in comparison to the numbers of those who did vote who were not educated on the candidates and issues. Walking around a popular street in New York City, a prominent Radio host asked random pedestrians what they thought of Obama's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The number of Obama voters who did not pick up on the trick question was staggering, as they rattled off reasons why they thought Palin would be a great Vice President. While I understand that only those who answered this way were the ones who made the show, it is completely unacceptable for ANY potential voter to not know who the Vice Presidential candidates are. And it's not as if Obama voters were alone in this ignorance. Voters on the McCain side were constantly libeling Obama as a communist, saying he wasn't even from America, and making racist ads that portrayed him as a monkey or a witch doctor. This kind of ignorance is unacceptable, and the only way to change it is through honest, non-partisan education of the American public.