Politics isn't for everyone. The entire system can be dirty, cruel, and disheartening to anyone involved. Even if you think you don't care who's elected in November, though, you should pay attention to the 2016 election. A lot is at stake for women, minorities, and LGBTQ people this year, and the next president and Congress could either advance equality to new levels or move the nation backward on key issues.
If you're simply not interested, you're not alone. In fact, only three in 10 Americans were following the election closely at the beginning of 2016, and fewer women were tuned in than men, with 31 percent of American women paying close attention in April, compared to 44 percent of men. Despite the heated political climate and huge rallies for the remaining three candidates across the country, most people are sitting this one out.
However disillusioned you may feel by the process or the politicians wrapped up in it, not caring (and subsequently not voting) is a dangerous move. Decisions made by elected officials in Washington, D.C. affect just about every aspect of your life, from your health to your finances to your safety, and you can't trust the rest of the nation to make the right decision for you. Here are five reasons you should adult-up and pay attention:
Not Paying Attention Backfired in 2010
Voter turnout drastically affects elections. In the 2010 midterms, a lot of the Democratic voters who got President Obama elected in 2008 stayed home, which allowed Republicans to take back more than 50 seats and the majority in the House of Representatives. Turnout among young voters dropped by 7 percent from 2008, among union member voters by 4 percent, and among African-American voters by 3 percent. You can't depend on the rest of your party to show up and do the work for you — the majority of Americans need to vote in order to elect officials who the majority support.
Women's Rights Are At Jeopardy
As a woman, you probably want to live in a country where men and women are treated equally and paid the same wages for equal work. Spoiler alert — that won't just magically happen over night. Elected officials ultimately decide whether or not legislation will make it easier for women to succeed or easier for men to take advantage of them, as well as what you are or aren't allowed to do with your body. The only way to help ensure the government is working to end, not reinforce, sexism is to pay attention to which candidates speak out about it and which ones openly degrade women.
Apathy Is Selfish
If you're a middle- or upper-class, straight, white woman, ignoring the election is actually pretty selfish. By not caring about the election, you're putting your own feelings of disillusionment above the political needs of marginalized Americans. While any presidency ultimately affects everyone, people of color, immigrants, the poor, and the LBGTQ community have the most to either lose or gain, and electing candidates who aren't committed to helping those groups could lead to dangerous policies that threaten either their physical or financial safety. If you don't want to pay attention for yourself, do it for others.
Foreign Policy Affects Travel
Foreign policy is not only about national security. It also boils down to the nation's relationships with other countries. Nations the United States is at odds with could block Americans from visiting or, at the very least, act hostile when American tourists do show up. Of course, the United States isn't always on perfect terms with every country, but a president who doesn't mind offending even close allies could seriously diminish how Americans are viewed abroad — and that could negatively impact your travel plans.
You'll Miss Out On Amazing GIFs
If you need a more superficial reason to engage in the election, I've got those too. One of the great (only?) benefits of having such a crazy political cycle is all the hilarious GIFs that emerge from the rubble. Politics can admittedly be pretty dull sometimes, but not when unforgettable smirks, eye rolls, and dance moves, are forever memorialized in GIF form.
It might be painful at first, but participating in the election is important for your own life and for everyone else's in America.
Images: Allison Gore (1), Giphy (1)