So after the election is over and done with the drama is finally over. You’ve cast your vote and watched the results roll in. Maybe your chosen candidate and party won. Maybe they didn’t. But sooner or later two questions are going to hit you. “Is that it?” and “What comes next?”
Most of the people who even bothered to vote will usually say that nothing much comes next. After all for many people the only direct involvement that they ever have in politics is to vote. And in truth for a lot of people that is genuinely where they see the end of it. After all once the government is in office that’s the end of the common peoples involvement in how their country is run. Isn’t it?
In my last blog post I mentioned that election day is the second most important day to be a good, interested and most of all involved citizen. Which leaves the unanswered but obvious question “What is the most important day?” The answer is that the most important day to be involved is every other day of your governments term of office.
On election day and perhaps even during the full election cycle your country may essentially have no government. Most will have a caretaker government of some kind in place. But they will be caretakers with no mandate from the people to exercise much in the way of power. On that day you go to the polls to choose the next government. But you are giving people who at that moment in time have no power your voice. After election day when they walk through the corridors of power be it Dail Eireann, the Senate buildings or the Houses of Parliament those people will be speaking with your voice. They will speak on your behalf and make decisions based on the mandate to rule which you have gifted them with.
Those newly elected people whether they acknowledge it or not then have a duty of care to all the people of their nation. But it is up to the common people of that nation to keep their government honest. Too many people walk away from voting with an almost smug self satisfaction that they have done their civic duty. Completely missing the point that voting should be nothing more than the very beginning of fulfilling that duty. Once you put someone in power you have a moral duty to yourself, your family, your friends and your fellow citizens to confront them at ever turn and in fact to seek out opportunities to confront them. The nation and the individual citizens who make it up should quiz them at every turn on what they’ve achieved or failed to achieve so far in their term of office. Clear answers must be demanded of them on why they may have reneged on election promises. Your rulers should be forced to be honest in their dealings with the people whose welfare they’ve voluntarily to taken responsibility for.
It is all too often heard on news and current affairs programs that some government body or other hadn’t enough oversight ensuring it did what it was originally intended for. Unfortunately those reports are all to often true. A prime example of this in Irish politics is the controversy caused by expenditure of public money by FÁS over the past few years. These reports are often proven true because ordinary citizens don’t demand the information and the answers that they are entitled to before the molehill is injected with steroids. The freedom of information acts which are in place in most democratic nations exist in part for this very reason. So that the ordinary citizens of a nation may be a significant part of their own nations oversight.
Never forget that the vast majority of politicians do not start out as self-centered, grasping creatures. But power or even proximity to power can and does corrupt. Worse still corruption is contagious and it takes a strong statesman to maintain his or her immunity to this corruption.
As citizens of whatever nation we are responsible for demanding the best from our leaders. Not a few of us, not just the academics or the more ethical lobby groups, but all of us. We each have a part to play in making sure that our politics represents the will of the people and not the will of the vested interests. The part we play is representative of our individual natures and gifts. Whether that part is to go over a small segment of the nations laws to help weed out inequalities or just confronting a politician in the street and calling them out when they’ve decided they can get away with playing silly buggers. We all can play a part in helping ensure our leaders hold the course that will be best for us all.
Best of all this direct action in the day-to-day political sphere can be a huge help in maintaining the stability of a nation. Simply put a citizenry who have a genuine and appreciable effect on policies are going to be more supportive of their government. A better supported government can make better decisions or at least feel supported in making the best available decisions. Which pushes a horrific spectre further away from us all.
What spectre? Civil disobedience or worse still civil war. By being our own nations oversight. By makng our politicians constantly aware that we expect them to keep politics honest, honorable and above all else of the people we ensure that the people need never take up arms against their own leaders. It is rightly said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Well it is also the price which must be willingly paid by any populace for good government, honest representation and to have any claim as a nation to true greatness.