A 2011 study found that only 9% of Texas residents reported contacting elected officials, ranking 49th among the 50 states and Washington D.C. The same study reported that Texas residents ranked 51st in voter turnout during the 2010 midterm elections. This trend in lacking political participation is nothing new in Texas, and it has very real consequences for our democratic system and for Texas psychiatrists.

A group of prominent political scientists came together in 2005 at the Brookings Institute to warn of the consequences of low political participation. They said “… American democracy is at risk. Its health and legitimacy are compromised on account of levels of participation and quality of participation that are lower than they should be, and a distribution of participation, influence and power that are far more unequal than they should be.” They argued that participation is vitally important for three reasons:

  1. “Politics obviously determines who gets what, when and how. Democracy is supposed to promote the interests of the people as a whole, but political institutions are responsive to those who mobilize and act in politics.”
  2. “The quality of democratic governance is improved when citizens make their preferences known.”
  3. “When important classes or groups of citizens are considerably less active and influential than others, and especially when this is itself the consequence of the design of political institutions, it looks like instead of government by and for the people as a whole, what we have is some people exercising power over other people and the political legitimacy of the system is compromised.”

Psychiatrists across the country know this all too well. In 2002, New Mexico became the first state to grant psychologists prescribing privileges. Speaking about their victory, Mario Marquez, PhD, of the New Mexico Psychological Association said, “To me, the bottom line is we developed relationships with legislators. We educated them about psychology and we made friends with them in some cases.” Since then, psychologists have been granted prescribing privileges in Louisiana in 2009, and in Illinois in 2014. Over the past ten years, similar legislation has been introduced in other states.

If that’s not enough, there plenty more reasons for you to get involved…

“Because you live in a democracy, you also take on responsibility for your society and your community, whether you decide to accept it or not.” – Former TX Governor Anne Richards

A strong connection with the populace is central to keeping government accountable. … We can’t have a truly democratic government without the eager participation of the people.” – Former TX Governor Rick Perry

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

“Those who do not do politics will be done in by politics.” – French Proverb

“All politics are based on the indifference of the majority.” – James Reston

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” – Judge Gideon J. Tucker

“In politics, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds votes.” – Paul Lazarsfeld

“In politics, an organized minority is a political majority.” – Jesse Jackson

“All politics is local.” – Tip O’Neill

“The folks who are currently governing the good state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participate.” – Pres. Barack Obama at SXSW 2016