With all this talk about debates, registrations, mavericks and bailouts, my brain has gone into political overload. As selfish as it may be, I’m elated that the voter registration deadline has passed because I can finally walk across campus without being stalked by a wild pack of hungry voter registration volunteers. Moreover, I’ll be even happier on Nov. 5 because, like the rest of the seasonal political activists in our country, I can go back to watching my regularly scheduled programming.

But one thing bothers me: That we go into political overdrive in September and revert right back to ignoring the concerns facing our nation come December. That’s hypocritical and phony. In my meager 21 years, I’ve never seen an election receive this much attention and participation. Even some of the biggest celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, spreading the word to get out and vote. Of course, there has never been an election year that has had a black man as the presidential nominee of a major party either.

But maybe if we had placed as much emphasis on voting and holding candidates accountable in the electoral offseason, we would’ve seen more diverse and socially conscious political agendas sooner.

There seems to be a common “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality among middle- and upper-class Americans. The problem is that it is broke — and has been for a very long time. We just haven’t been paying attention. Families have been suffering from poverty and unemployment for years. Children have been starving. Civil rights have been violated. Homes have been foreclosed on , and justice has not been served. Maybe I should call it the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and if it is, just keep using it and pretend you don’t notice” mentality.

The stability of our nation and the effectiveness of our leadership have been scrutinized by the masses both locally and internationally. But it took eight years for average Americans to realize that the weapons of mass destruction for which we’ve been searching have been at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. the whole time.

Registering people to vote and encouraging citizens to speak up about the fate or our nation are two things that should have been emphasized long before Barack Obama or Sarah Palin made it on the ballot. Moreover, the same emphasis that is being placed on this election should be placed on every election from this point on, including elections at the state and local levels. While the presidential election is important, each election and each decision made impacts our lives.

We should be making sure that we not only elect a president who will have the best interest of the everyday citizen in mind, but also governors, mayors, city councils, county prosecutors and judges who will fight for the issues important to those who can’t advocate for themselves. The same effort that went into making sure people were registered to vote should go into making sure people are actually getting out and voting in each and every election.

The people paid to hunt unregistered voters down in the middle of their classes should get paid to encourage people to attend city council meetings and school board meetings. They should be asking people if they are the registered to vote and if they are informed about the other candidates and issues on the ballot. It’s not OK to “Barack the Vote” and leave every other bubble blank. Many voters are misled and uninformed about what certain ballot proposals mean and what the impact of those initiatives will be.

After Hurricane Katrina, it was evident that the Bush administration was oblivious to the issues and concerns affecting our impoverished communities. So it’s not enough to vote once a year. We must make sure that everyday we are holding our leaders accountable for addressing the needs of our country across all racial, social and class barriers.

While I will be proudly wearing my American flag lapel pin as I lick the seal of my absentee ballot, I can only hope that the people who are so active for this election will continue their efforts after the polls close.

Shakira Smiler can be reached at stsmiler@umich.edu.

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