For all its frustrations, 2016 came with a silver lining: it proved that the people’s voice does matter.
It’s safe to say last year was one firmly gripped by major upsets. The United States saw Donald Trump defeat the supposed front runner Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, rallying the populous voters with the message of focusing on our own country and rebuilding what was once a great world power. Britain meanwhile voted in favor of leaving the European Union, deciding in a popular vote to move toward building itself up as an individual power which could focus on its own needs. Both events held high stakes on a global level, and many were shocked to see outcomes that favored individual countries instead of the world as a whole.
More importantly though, there was something special about these upsets: They came from a new surge of political activity among average working citizens in both countries. For the first time in many years, these voters rose to action in the hopes of having their voices heard to sway the outcome of major issues. And you know what? It worked.
As frustrating as this might have been, we should take note of this fact. In two major instances, there was proof that the voice of the people does matter and can sway the outcome of political decisions in a peaceful manner. All of those slogans we’ve heard pushed by voter registration workers, all of those lectures we’ve heard from parents and teachers alike, is true. Our vote does matter. Our voice does matter.
Or at least, it does on a large scale, and that’s the biggest part to take note of. Even in a year that saw a surge of voters who didn’t normally participate in the voting process, the final voter tally was still only slightly above one third of the population. Imagine then if all those who didn’t vote because they didn’t think their opinion mattered were to become active. By banding together toward a common goal, we could make a change and alter the decisions regarding the country we live in.
Considering what may be on the horizon, we may need to. Donald Trump’s administration is predicted to run counter to the one led by Obama, taking opposite stances on abortion legislation, foreign affairs and climate issues. At the same time, the republican led congress is expected to use their majority control to work toward scrapping the Affordable Care Act while also presenting legislation and cuts in other areas.
Just like those who turned out en masse for Trump, those who reject these ideas can turn the tides by voicing their opposition against the incoming administration and their plans for the country we live in.
For proof, look no further than the debacle with congress trying to hobble the independent ethics committee at the start of this year. After abruptly announcing their plans to pass legislation limiting the powers of the committee and transferring their jurisdiction to another entity, congress members were flooded with criticism from concerned citizens. Calls swamping the local offices of representatives, This resulted in further scrutiny of their actions by the media and even the president elect voicing his opinion on the matter, causing congress to pull their plans completely and leave the committee untouched.
So as frustrated as some people may still be about last year, remember that we do matter. As members of this country, we can make a difference with our votes and our voices. Because in the years to come, they’ll be needed more than ever.