It seems like everywhere I turn, there is another corruption scandal in New York City or Albany. I am truly astonished at the level of graft, outright theft and inappropriate behavior committed by some (but definitely not all) of our elected officials.
As a political scientist, I refuse to let the few negative outliers ruin my perception of the entire group. I know there are so many people hard at work trying to find solutions to the many problems we face as a democratic society. Unfortunately, the negative stories coming out of Albany and city halls across the state seem to be at every turn. I must resist the temptation to be distracted by the sometimes soap opera antics of elected officials and to keep my eye on larger goals so many of us are working toward. I am trying to stay positive and have adapted a few strategies to help me stay optimistic.
I am turning disappointment into action. Many people realize there are true “costs” to voting and participating in politics. The first obstacle for many is actually just registering to vote. Some people don’t feel the need to even register to vote because they are so dissatisfied with their few options. As you know, in many elections, incumbents—that is, people who already hold office—are running virtually unopposed. Therefore, each time I hear yet another negative story about an elected official, I do two things. First, I encourage someone who has never voted to actually register to vote. Registration is a major hurdle for many people during election season, but you can register to vote at any time. We don’t have to wait until September to register to vote.
Second, I ask someone to think about running for office. Tiffany Dufu, the former head of the White House Project, stresses the importance of actually asking someone to run for office. You never know what spark it may ignite. In the upcoming columns, I will detail what it looks like to encourage and support someone who is interested in becoming more politically involved and taking the plunge into political waters. In the meantime, if you know someone in your community who is a leader, who has ideas, who has a passion for change, why don’t you plant that seed and ask him or her to think about contributing to the solutions at City Hall or in Albany?
It is so important, now more than ever, that we “watch the store,” and our elected officials on the local and state levels especially. These individuals are in charge of not just money, but the future of our city and our state. Let’s not let the poor choices of a few distract us from the real work that needs to be done, the great work that is already being done by certain elected officials and the role we must play in creating a solution to the problems we face currently.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”