January is a time of new beginnings – a new year, a new semester, and new chances to do things better than before. In every evenly numbered year, January is also a time of renewed emphasis on elections, a renewal of their own, serving as a critical part of our American form of government.
Politically, 2017 was a very different and in many ways challenging year. Both nationally and here in Texas the inability of serious people to work together to accomplish the people’s business seemed to reach an all-time high. In the face of such mass dysfunction it’s tempting to throw your hands up and simply retreat, or further retreat, from the political process that drives our American system of government. However, that is the very temptation we must all collectively resist.
We must resist the urge to bury our heads because a system of government set up for the people requires deep, meaningful, and widespread engagement by the people to remain, or return, to a functional state. It is almost certainly the lack of deep, meaningful, and widespread engagement by the people that has gotten us to where we are in the first place. So, this January I implore you, for your own sake and for the sake of all Texans and Americans, from the youngest to the oldest, resolve to renew your commitment to engaged informed citizenship.
Certainly a commitment to better citizenship includes a commitment to vote, not just in November but in every election, but it goes beyond merely showing up to the ballot box.
Being an engaged and informed citizen requires that you be an informed voter and an active constituent. You have to know what issues your elected officials can truly impact and what their positions on those issues are. That requires digging past rhetoric, red herrings and meaningless political labels. Once an official is in office engaged citizenship requires you to watch to see that your elected representatives’ actions in office match up to their words on the campaign trail. Finally, when your representatives don’t live up to your expectations, it’s up to you as the citizen being represented to tell them so; first through direct communication and ultimately by voting them out of office if they fail to represent you.
Engaged informed citizenship is not easy, but it is doable, and it is necessary to maintain a functional democracy. While everyone must individually resolve to do their part, you thankfully don’t have to go it alone. You can help yourself be accountable to vote by signing the Texas Educators Vote oath. You can learn more about the candidates’ stances and incumbents’ voting records on education right here on the Teach the Vote candidate profiles. You can give yourself the support and encouragement of your peers by joining the Texans for Public Education Facebook group.
The last day to register to vote in the 2018 primaries is Monday, February 5. The early voting period runs from Tuesday, February 20, through Friday, March 2. Election Day is Tuesday, March 6.