Ever since I got my first taste of civic engagement in fourth grade student council elections, I’ve yearned for the day when I can proudly wear a red, white and blue “I Voted” sticker on my chest.
While the sticker's elegant design is a bonus, this is not the only reason why I’m drawn to it. Ultimately, the “I Voted” sticker’s ubiquitous meaning makes it so prized in my eyes. It shows that the wearer is a responsible member of society, who understands the importance of their right to vote — and is using that fundamental American right to incite change. In other words, the “I Voted” sticker is supposed to show that our democracy is alive and thriving.
This is the narrative that I grew up with. It’s a hopeful narrative that is soundtracked by cawing eagles and the "The Star-Spangled Banner." But it’s also a narrative that I have become somewhat disillusioned with as I’ve grown older.
A quick glance at any major newspaper’s front page can overwhelm the reader with political stories so absurd that they seem satirical. For example, in the summer of 2022, federal prosecutors found gold bars in the home of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), allegedly a result of corrupt dealings with Egyptian businessmen. It feels like only cartoon villains would stock up on gold bars in their crimes, but apparently, our senators do too.
Even more recently, former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 20th) was ousted from his speakership just days after the House of Representatives narrowly avoided a complete government shutdown over a spending bill. The ousting was described by former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as being “part of a personal vendetta”.
The absurdity of politicians' conduct doesn't stop at the national and state levels; they also appear locally. On Oct. 3, mayoral candidate Adam Searing published a scathing newsletter titled "The Triangle Blog Blog Isn’t Real News. It’s Dark-Money Attack Politics."
In the newsletter, Searing threw out conspiracy theory-adjacent accusations (which have since been debunked) against the local blog. His vitriol was apparent from behind the keyboard. It’s disheartening to see candidates run a large part of their campaign on attacking local media instead of addressing Town issues.
These theatrics point to a larger trend that defies party and state lines, wherein politicians are more consumed by workplace drama and big-budget donors than creating policies to serve their constituents.
As a result, I’m already tired of the spectacle of politics, despite not having even been old enough to vote in the last election.