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Stay politically active

Jenn Metz | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Up until recently, I’ll admit, the only real politics I was interested in were fictional.

I have seen every episode of The West Wing – logging many hours watching C.J. Cregg’s press conferences, President Josiah Bartlet’s States of the Union and senior staffers’ policy debates.

However, breaking national news aside, I didn’t really feel the urge to watch the characters’ real-life counterparts in the Bush administration on C-SPAN. I was appalled at myself to find, in attempting to answer a question at a trivia night, I could not name those next in the presidential line of succession after Cheney, something I could have done in a heartbeat if I was asked about the Bartlet White House.

So, I may not be the ideal politically-active and politically-informed citizen. But, when it became time for me to observe my civic duty and vote for our nation’s next president, my personal involvement in national politics increased dramatically. I found myself, for example checking Politico instead of re-watching another box set.

The rest of the country, the people on this campus included, it seems, has followed suit.

This election has done wonders for our national culture – introducing new catchphrases like “Gotcha” and “Change,” reminding U.S. citizens of our proximity to Russia and boosting “30 Rock’s” Nielson ratings.

It’s also made us active. It’s made us passionate. And it’s made us really think about the candidates and their platforms.

We’ve been bombarded with all sorts of media coverage – factual, editorialized and satirical – about the election and its players. Like most of America, I sat through about 12, horrible segments of SNL’s “Magruber” sketches to see Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Chris Parnell’s eerily accurate impersonation of Tom Brokaw.

While watching last Saturday’s episode, a commercial addressed both my own tendencies toward political apathy and the nation’s inclination to get very excited about politics only when politics are very exciting.

The commercial asked, “What will you be thinking about Nov. 5?”

Nov. 5 – today – does mark a turning point in our nation’s history, and also, in our nation’s mindset.

For the next few days, weeks, months, the media will still focus on politics – analyzing the election outcomes and the next administration’s transition into the White House.

But slowly, the regular news cycle will return, and the dialogue about the issues that decided this election will change back to dialogue about celebrity baby names, the new vampire movie coming out and whatever fantasy sport is in season.

The percentage of us that watch the news, that regularly read newspapers, and that tune in for SNL, will decrease, and soon. The current problems, however, will not disappear just because we stop watching them on T.V.

Being politically active doesn’t have to be popular only during election season. As college students, we will personally feel the effects of the changes that may or may not be made by the new administration, and our elected representatives can continue to hear our voice if we take the time to make it heard.

Keep the conversation going. Keep watching 30 Rock. And keep thinking about the issues – today on Nov. 5 and afterwards.