by Cassady Thompson

“The government is like a relationship,” said Dr. Chapman Rackaway, chair of the political science department at the University of West Georgia. “We get out of it what we put into it. What we don’t do is engage, and there is a threat in this lack of engagement.”

Dr. Chapman Rackaway
Dr. Chapman Rackaway

Rackaway recently spoke on the threat of civic failure and how vital participation is to have a functioning government, as part of the Into the Community: College Without Walls conversations series, hosted by the College of Social Sciences.

According to Rackaway, our aspirations for what our government can do doesn’t always align with what we as a society want them to do, and this causes a problem in a republican democracy. Politicians do what they believe we want them to do—if the results don’t match up, then something isn’t quite right.

Benjamin Franklin’s words spoken at the Constitutional Convention serve as a road map for what our Constitution sets forth. Franklin explained that people could keep this government, and that citizen governance required work and commitment.

“Today we tend to think that the policy process works where elected officials and interested parties debate over policy outcomes,” stated Rackaway. “It comes out and we get a veto at the back end. That’s wrong! We need to change that. The Constitution was set up where we should be the most engaged minds in the political process.”

Back in the 1800s the idea was to either get on board or be forgotten. Rackaway discussed that there was no better way for informing and engaging the public than strong, present political parties, and we had strong partisanship.

“In today’s world, the media’s main goal is to make money, but we must recognize that a profit motivated media is going to entertain more than it’s going to educate,” Rackaway announced. “We lose the information that political parties bring.”

Rackaway speculates that citizens continue to disagree and form complaints when the policies don’t conform to what is ideal in their mind. They aren’t vocal enough when it comes to sharing their concerns and opinions with officials who actually make the decisions. This is civic failure.

“If we expect the impossible, how can our politicians satisfy the expectations of those of us who are supposed to be the smartest, most engaged, biggest decision makers?” Rackaway queried.

“We encapsulate this attitude in numerous areas,” explained Rackaway. “We push for term limits and for campaign finance reform, which is troubling. As we see the decay of civic engagement and involvement in the U.S., the warning signs of this unguided missile of the public continue to haunt us. The end product is a standoff.”

Only one in 20 people cast a ballot in a non-partisan, general election, as reported by Rackaway.

“We are saying we want change, but aren’t doing what is necessary,” Rackaway concluded. “We don’t want to do research to further our knowledge of various political parties and how they could be affecting us. When we really analyze the enemy in this situation, we look in the mirror and see ourselves looking back.”

Posted on October 10, 2017