I’ll confess—I’m not a sports fan. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing soccer between the ages of 7 and 13, and I still find tennis and basketball fun to play, along with more recreational sports like bowling and darts. Now, I understand that fellowshipping with others who support the team you follow can be a great way to foster a sense of community, as can having friendly rivalries with fans of opposing teams. I have attended enough college football games to understand that “team spirit” can create joy, and I begrudge no one for their benign sources of happiness.
However, I find myself frustrated when I notice a correlation between how many Mississippians view sports and politics, choosing “a team” and blindly supporting them no matter what. I know of many people—some friends and family—who pay nigh-zero attention to the actual policies candidates espouse before going to the polls. And why should they, when they know beforehand that they are going to check whatever name has an R or D?
This “team-sports” mentality has infected our state’s and others’ political landscapes. We have “forever Republicans” and “forever Democrats” who do not bother to learn the platforms of the nominees for their chosen party. Many just look for the label that they believe they are supposed to align with—be it because they inherited their views from their parental figures or because they feel pressure from their social circles.
Uninformed votes, I believe, cheapen the democratic voting system entirely. This type of voting strategy will not beget the level of change that Mississippi requires to grow and improve. Some politicians seem to feel that they need not even bother having concrete policies when they know they can toss out a few keywords that rile up their voter base. Approaching politics as a voter with such binary thinking and an emphasis on “brand loyalty” leads people to vote against their own interests or the benefit of their fellow Mississippians, all because they want “their side” to win.
As an independent voter, I have social issues that matter to me, and I put in the time to learn which candidates in an election support policies that align with the goals I want for my city, county, state and nation. I’m not special; I understand plenty of other Mississippians work hard to keep themselves informed, particularly among our readership. But we must all strive further to encourage our friends and family who are a little more comfortable in their ignorance to make educated choices at the polls instead of just voting for “their team.”
Review the Mississippi Free Press’ coverage of the 2023 elections and share the stories you believe will help better inform your friends, coworkers and neighbors before they head to the polls. And give to mfp.ms/donate so that our newsroom can continue its dedicated reporting on issues that affect all Mississippians.
Every millimeter we move the needle of political awareness will gradually help the next generation of Mississippians live in a state that better supports their needs and values.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.