President Donald Trump is not the ultimate enemy of modern politics. Before you start sharpening your pitchforks, I agree that Trump’s rise to power is an existential problem, but it is only a symptom of the larger issue.
No one person is the nemesis of democracy. Our ultimate enemy is a lack of political education.
A political outsider won by deceptively promising a better life to people dissatisfied with the status quo. Trump’s campaign team capitalized on our lack of familiarity with the political process, our ignorance about policymaking and the failures of our education system to create an informed citizenry.
In a perfect world, that exploitation would spur sweeping changes to our institutions, ensuring that future generations are better prepared to enact change. Transparency would reign and deceitful politics would soon be a remnant of a more dangerous time. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and a framework for civic education is slow to form. Another demagogue will surely rise unless we learn more about our place in the political system.
When I moved to San Francisco, I immediately noticed incredible political energy. I was scared for America’s future and intended to get involved in local issues, doing my small part to make the world a better, safer place. But navigating the wide range of liberal views found here is difficult, even for longtime residents. As a newcomer, I lacked an understanding of The City’s varying shades of blue.
Then, I stumbled upon Politics 101, an event run by the United Democratic Club, an organization involved in federal, California and San Francisco politics. Presenters with significant experience in government, such as Christine Pelosi, Kim-Mai Cutler and Armand Domalewski, simply wanted to share their practical knowledge with the audience. I was astonished to learn just how much I didn’t know. The entire night reminded me that if you understand the system, you can affect our government and create real change.
I loved the concept enough to join the Politics 101 planning committee, so I could help open others’ eyes to our political world. For our next free event on June 19, we’re welcoming guest speakers who have a long history of public service and profound insight about the inner workings of the federal, state and local governments. Regardless of political experience, we can all benefit from learning more about who represents us, what powers they hold and how their decisions affect our lives.
The Washington Post’s new slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” paints a bleak vision of our future. My hope is that the converse is also true: Democracy thrives in light. Regardless of your level of engagement or political leanings, I encourage you to learn more about our government and seek ways to make your voice heard. A more educated, active citizenry is the only thing that ensures a brighter future.
Andrew Dolberg is president of Champion Briefs, a company striving to help high school students become better speakers, critical thinkers and community members.