As a child, I was told that lawmakers reflect the beliefs of their constituents. As I grow older, it is becoming apparent that far more lawmakers reflect the opinions of a political party, regardless of what individual voters believe or want. On a ballot, it seems that all a voter looks for is the candidate's party affiliation, hardly ever daring to actually research the candidate. This phenomenon is manifested in poor legislative decisions and in lawmakers' continual willingness to do what is worse for their constituents in spite of better options.
Two recent examples come to mind. First, the same day that a shooter walked into a Nashville school and killed six people, three of them children, a Tennessee judge signed off on a settlement that lowered the minimum age to carry a handgun without a permit to just 18. Instead of coming to terms with the simple fact that countries with increased regulations on guns are safer, lawmakers preach a myth that falsely equates more guns with safety in a vain attempt to preserve our “Americanism,” a buzzword in the Republican Party, all the while hurting voters they claim to protect.
Next, Mississippi became one of ten Republican-dominated states to reject the expansion of Medicaid, disproportionately affecting rural hospitals, which lack the base resources to function on their own. According to the American Hospital Association, states that rejected the expansion of Medicaid made up 75% of rural hospital closures from 2010 to 2021. For decades, rural voters have favored the Republican Party in almost every regard. Consequently, the Republican legislatures in the states working against Medicaid are actively harming their own voter bases, a phenomenon which should, but currently doesn’t, give voters pause.
At the root of this issue: partisanship. It is clear that this country cares far more about the party on the ballot than the motives and legislative decisions that a given party supports. A fundamental example of this is the idea of straight-ticket voting, which enables the voter to simply mark one box on their ballot to vote for all the candidates from a given party. It is high time that voters set aside party differences, dispense with mechanisms like straight-ticket voting, and commit to doing informed research on candidates so that we can put qualified lawmakers into office who hold the interests of the people above party politics.