To stop devolution of our political system, we need more participation


The U.S. Capitol building serves as the arena where polarization in politics has been on full display as of late.

Celebrities engaging in politics is nothing new. 

Dating back even before former-actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan, famous athletes, actors and the like have used their platform to toss their hats into the political ring. 

Just in recent memory we have seen Arnold Schwarzenegger become governor of California for two terms, former Saturday Night Live writer and media personality Al Franken become a two-term senator for Minnesota, and entrepreneur and reality TV star Donald Trump become the U.S. president. 

Many of these folks — and those not mentioned — have done well in office. Unfortunately, having a high public profile and big personality does not always fare well in the political realm for others. 

That’s why when Robert Ritchie — better known as Kid Rock, the artist behind songs such as “Bawitdabaw” and “Cadillac P***y” — confirmed the website was real on Twitter in July, some were shocked. The site appeared seemingly out of nowhere, offering merchandise with “Kid Rock for U.S. Senate” emblazoned on it for purchase. 

Ritchie’s irreverent, hard-partying image is what makes him so appealing to his fans. It would also make him appealing to would-be opposition researchers. His lyrics frequently reference his sexual exploits, and his abuse of drugs and alcohol. He has also been in a sex tape and gotten into fights at a club and a Waffle House, according to Politico. Then there are his less-than-savory comments he has made in interviews, like with the New Yorker where he gave his stance on gay marriage, saying “I don’t give a f**k if gay people get married. I don’t love anybody who acts like a f***in’ f****t.”

He has since announced that his senate run was a joke, saying in an interview with Howard Stern two weeks ago, “F**k no, I’m not running for Senate! Are you f***ing kidding me? Like, who f***ing couldn’t figure that out?” according to The Washington Post. Apparently, some could not figure that out. 

Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon kept in touch with Ritchie about his possible run, he was given an endorsement by a former New York governor and was urged to run by a super PAC leader, according to The Washington Post. Though Ritchie has played his potential candidacy off as a joke, some do not believe it started that way. 

So how did a politically toxic man such as Ritchie become a serious candidate in so many people’s minds? It is indicative of the political apathy of the American public. The average American does not engage in politics the way they should in a democracy, as simply turning out to vote seems to be too much of a task. We rank 31 out of 35 developed countries in voter turnout, so it is not too much of a long shot to suggest that maybe we do not put enough effort into choosing our candidates. 

The fact of the matter is, people see celebrities as a good alternative to politicians when they feel disenfranchised. The authenticity of a celebrity’s brand seems so much more when it is put up against the usual song and dance of Washington politicians who only seem to be interested in getting reelected. But celebrities, just like career politicians, are capable of lying, as is indicated by Ritchie’s senate website. 

Ritchie, first of all, lied about his potential candidacy for publicity preceding his new album. He also originally said he would use the proceeds for merchandise sold on his website to invest in a program to get people registered to vote. Still, no one knows where that money has gone. Buzzfeed reached out to representatives of Ritchie’s, but was unable to receive comment as to where the money has gone. Overall, the man who dubbed himself the voice of the blue-collar worker seems to have screwed over the people who believed in him.

Though we can sit around and complain that Washington does not represent the average citizen, we as voters fail ourselves. Our lack of participation in the very democracy we tout to the rest of the world has led to a polarized system that only allows us to choose the lesser of two evils. It has also left us vulnerable to incidents like that of Ritchie’s, which embarrasses our political system and shows our lack of respect for it. For those who do not cast a vote out of protest, you are part of the problem.

It is time for average citizens to step up and use their power to run for office or just simply make their voices heard by voting. The more engagement we get out of the average citizen in our political system, the more representative of the average citizen it will be. It is time to get off of our butts and make change happen. 

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