Unchecked politicians take advantage of voter disengagement

Our nation was founded on the principles of civic duty, equality and justice. Only when these are valued does our government run effectively. Today, in America, there exists a breach of trust. Elected officials, who should be trustworthy, are mistreating their privileges, yet they are not held accountable due to an overall lack of political efficacy.

Following an investigation into his finances, Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned Tuesday. Schock is accused of using over $40,000 in taxpayer funds to redecorate his office to replicate the style of Downton Abbey, a popular show on PBS. Schock did pay for his renovations after the story went public, but there still exists allegations of improper usage of funding for extravagant trips in private jets and concert tickets.

While it is convenient to think that Schock is the exception in terms of wasteful spending, this abuse of power is relatively commonplace. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took more than 200 privately chartered flights during her time as senator of New York, some trips costing upwards of $200,000. This misuse of public funding is a bipartisan epidemic, and there will be no change until it is demanded by American voters.

In the United States, we are faced with a wave of growing indifference towards politics in everyday life. We have become a democracy characterized by political disengagement, as evidenced by the lowest voter turnout in over 60 years in the midterm elections this past fall. When we cease to perform our civic duty and allow unchecked practices to occur, we are taking for granted the very thing that makes us American: that we collectively have the power to decide our leaders.

A shift in culture is necessary to remedy widespread lack of concern in politics in America. The representative democracy of the United States was created so ordinary citizens could conduct their own lives, but when the actions of those elected to act in the best interest of those they represent become detrimental to the entire nation, we have an obligation to act. Citizens should take a more active role in their own lives and hold politicians accountable in order to protect against misconduct.