The frenzy of the 2018 elections is increasingly felt. Banners containing pictures of candidates for regional heads have begun to adorn the street corners. Media with various news events call 2018 the political year. Unbeknownst to us, this routine leader’s election becomes a ritual that is potentially less intelligently responded to by society, including by the campus intellectuals.
Today we seem to be caught up in the idea that the elections are the only arena of political participation. Students as a group who just received voting rights may be vulnerable to being trapped because of the high attention they pay to the electoral process. On the one hand, high attention to these elections is a positive marker of democracy in the region, but on the other hand there is criticism of the focus of our political participation.
In the end, we may all be in a state of (gagal fokus) “Losing focus”, as the term is currently popularized by the millennial generation. Failure to focus on participating in politics is a condition when we focus too much on part of the whole political process. Focus on this partial political process which then obscures the basic purpose of political participation.
Illustration (photo: liputan6.com)
Understanding politics as a whole
Politics is a term that is often mentioned, discussed, and debated, but very seldom contemplated intelligently. As a result, the definition of politics becomes very narrow. Politics is then only interpreted as a power struggle, efforts to impose on each other, and even as the arena of corrupt action. Through the repetition of media coverage, this narrow political definition eventually became a widely accepted public perception.
We need to recall that politics is born of a joint effort for a noble cause. People cluster and make common decisions because they face resource constraints. This way of thinking is confirmed by Rod Hague (1998) which explains that politics is an attempt to realize a collective decision to reconcile differences between members. When shared needs are confronted with limited resources, that’s when the political process begins to produce efficient allocation and distribution decisions.
Miriam Budiardjo in her book entitled Fundamentals of Political Science (2016) conclusively argues that politics is related to five elements namely: state, power, decision-making, public policy, and allocation or distribution. When people are faced with limited resources, they will take collective steps by choosing leaders (power given to the state) in order to make decisions. Public policy that is the output of the decision-making process is then used as the basis for implementing the allocation process or the distribution of limited resources.
Do Not Lose Focus
Reflecting on the full definition of politics, we are made aware that politics is not only concerned with the selection process of leaders. In other words, the process of political participation is not limited to focusing on voting in the election. As per the understanding and political objectives, participation should be more focused on two big things. First, ensuring the decision-making process is accountable and data-driven. Second, ensuring that the policies that have been taken are actually implemented to solve the problem of resource constraints.
Through this thinking, the author wants to convey the message that the election event including the pilkada this year should not be a major concern in our political participation efforts. The campus community should be able to address the pilkada more intelligently by focusing on the political process as a whole. The concern is that we are more involved in electoral euphoria than the performance and policies adopted by selected politicians later on.
The next reason that the basis of intelligence in political participation is the rational relationship between us as citizens and politicians. The relationship describes an economic relation where there is a commodity exchange and intermediate benefit. As citizens living collectively, we certainly need policies from politicians so that limited resources can be allocated. This is actually what drives us to vote in the election. Conversely, to gain a voice and power, politicians must design and keep the promises of policies summarized in the campaign. The benefit relationship should encourage citizens to continue to monitor the effectiveness of the votes they have been given, instead of failing to focus exclusively on the use of voting right during the elections.
Academically, I would also like to invite the campus community not to be limited to legal-formal political participation. Reflecting on Americans who have already known democracy, they no longer rely on formal political channels to participate. The United States Election in 2016 released statistical data that only 131 million people voted in the 231 million eligible US voting election. Some Americans have been more actively participating through various movements with specific issues such as environmental care movements and other social movements.
Given the phenomenon of participation in a country that has long been processed with democracy, we should realize that formal political channels cannot be the solution to all the problems people feel. Too many issues and issues that cannot be accommodated become the policy agenda. At this stage, various issues need to be responded to by various voluntary movements . To that end, let us as a campus community interpret political participation more intelligently and widely by actively engaging in various positive movements to become agents of real change. Student life, campus community life, be an Unparian that continues to spread the benefits!
Trisno Sakti Herwanto, SIP, MPA.
Lecturer of Public Administration Studies Program FISIP Unpar