By Garrick Hoffman
This fall season, SMCC student Sam Underwood worked for the Maine Democratic Party, where he served in voter outreach efforts to support the Mike Michaud campaign. I had the pleasure of interviewing him to learn about his experience as well as his opinions on today’s political scene. This is the last of three installments.
What do you think are the implications of not voting?
As I understand it, in ancient Greece, if you didn’t show up to vote you got exiled. I’m not saying we do that, but it’s worth noting that in certain older civilized cultures, if you didn’t show up to vote, you weren’t a citizen. Citizens vote. Votes are cast by citizens. That’s one of their responsibilities. So if you’re not voting, you’re really not earning your keep, and you’re kind of spitting in the face of the privileges that you do have.
There are a lot of people who think that America is a really screwed up place, and they’re not wrong. There are a lot of problems in America. There are gonna be problems in any society anywhere on the planet, and what we all have to remember is that, in terms of the personal freedoms that we all enjoy, and the amount of autonomy that we have, there aren’t a whole lot of places out there that are better than this place to live. So even if you have a vendetta with the powers that be, the best thing you can do is go to the polls and vote, talk to other people about voting, and get involved with some kind of organization that encourages voting and tries to empower and enfranchise citizens.
Do you think that voting in some departments are stronger than in others? For example, voting in municipalities versus voting for federal initiatives or elections? Or do you think it’s all pretty equal? One might argue that, if we’re living in an oligarchy, our freedom and our ability to vote and the fact that we have this ability to vote kind of ensures our liberty and our power, but all that can be an illusion created by the people in the background with a tremendous amount of power and money who dictate what happens in the country based on their interests.
Lets put quotation marks around the word “argue.” It’s been said that changing the state of the nation is like turning an aircraft carrier: it happens slowly, it happens one degree at a time. Now, if federally we’re an aircraft carrier, locally we might be more like a skiff. Municipal laws and state laws are way easier to change than federal laws. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it. It’s really not that hard. It’s not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it would be to go change a federal law.
I would love to see more people our age get involved in local politics because I think that’s one of the areas where I think you can make the best changes for the most people in your life, quickest. And if you do believe that you have no power at the federal level, what you might discover is you do have some power at the local level. There are already people our age who are doing things like running for office. I think that getting involved with local politics, getting involved with state politics – don’t be shy. You can’t go wrong with getting involved with that kind of thing.
What do you think are the most pressing issues that Maine faces for the future, and what do you think should be done or addressed to mitigate the issues?
Personally, I think that health care and social services – we really need to take a look at those things in the state. We are an aging state. Our young people tend to leave. We have to have a really good plan for how we’re going to take care of the aging population. One of the ways we can make that easier for ourselves is by keeping the young people here.
In order to do that, we need to take a look at our economy. Maine is one of the few states in the union where young people are going back to farming at an increased rate. I think it’s a cultural thing. From a policy standpoint, I think phenomena like that are things we need to capitalize on because, as we’ve seen, it’s very difficult to keep manufacturing jobs here. There’s a whole hubbub about mill closures right now. That’s real. If a mill closes in one of those small towns, well guess what? The entire town is now unemployed.
We can make it easier on ourselves by bringing jobs for young people back to the state. I think a great place to start with that is farms and fisheries because we have a lot of natural resources in this state that are under-utilized. We need to keep the state beautiful, we need to keep the environment healthy, we need to preserve our biosphere. If young people want to farm, let’s have them do it here.