Associate Features Editor
Dr. Craig Ilgenfritz is an adjunct professor teaching government and political affairs classes at Millersville. He also teaches at York College. Ilgenfritz is also the voluntary advisor of the Middle Eastern Studies Organization. The classes he teaches include Introduction to Global Politics, Government/Politics in the Middle East, Seminar in Russian Politics, Politic Systems of East Asia, Security Studies, Introduction to Comparative Political Systems and Introduction to International Studies.
Ilgenfritz’s introduction into politics occurred because of his parents and the time in which he grew up in. “It started with my father, who had a strong sense of social justice,” says Ilgenfritz. Ilgenfritz’s father was in World War II and was upset with the injustices taking place. His father often spoke of the Native Americans and the land that was taken away from them. His mother worked for the Democratic Party Machine. Party machines used to be popular in the urban areas that have strong party organization. These are organizations that use campaign workers to gain supporters.
Along with his parents, Ilgenfritz had a number of influential teachers, librarians and guidance counselors. “They gave direction to my life,” he explains.
The events of the time that he was growing up in also influenced his interest in politics. Ilgenfritz became aware of politics “when the ground was very fertile for positive change.” His adolescence was spent in the 60s and 70s. Ilgenfritz came to the conclusion that, “It is through policy that I can best do something for humanity.”
He observed that after the Vietnam War ended, people stopped participating as whole-heartedly in the political system as they once did. Some of the people he knew were participating in the political system just to avoid war. Ilgenfritz was more interested in changing U.S. policy when looking at the long term affects.
Unlike his fair-weather counterparts, Ilgenfritz’s mind never understood injustices to be an isolated issue. Instead, he saw the concerns as interconnected in some way. He explains that no other creature on earth is as dependent on culture as we are. This makes the issues complicated and far-reaching.
More specifically, Ilgenfritz defines politics as how values are distributed. “The way values are distributed now and in five to 10 years is going to determine the very nature of our existence for the next 100 to 200 years,” argues Ilgenfritz. The two debates he is alluding to are climate change and the use of nuclear weapons. These topics require urgency of thought and action.
Ilgenfritz suggests that we should seek improvement through education. The definition of education according to him is not just a degree, it is “awareness that we can do better.” Being informed is not enough; the information that we are consuming needs to be accurate. The distribution and consumption of quality information leads to true democracy. Ilgenfritz talks about how a system can be called a “democracy” but unless there is free information and participation in all forms, it does not mean anything.
Professionally, Ilgenfritz participates in the political system on a basic level through delivery of education. In his classes, he explains the issues in politics and the different positions. This commitment to objectivity allows students to come to their own conclusions. Even if people do disagree, he hopes to teach them to respect each other’s opinions.
In his personal time, Ilgenfritz participates in the political system in any way he can. “I engage in the articulation and aggregation of demands,” states Ilgenfritz. Interest articulation is when people express their needs from the government. The next step is interest aggregation, or taking actions to put these demands into practice. With this in mind, Ilgenfritz attends political functions such as meetings held by representatives. He joins in protests for causes he believes in. The issues he is concerned the most about are U.S. foreign policy and climate change. The wide range of his political activity includes contacting representatives, joining Non-Governmental Organizations, and of course, voting. He encourages young people to do the same.
A critical age group for political participation is the 18 to 30 group. Ilgenfritz argues that young adults are the ones who should be more interested and involved. The younger generations are arguably the most affected by issues such as climate change. He states that “shaping the social environment will never be easy.” It is a task that requires energy and commitment. “Being involved in politics is a lifetime affair,” says Ilgenfritz.
Involvement in midterm and primary elections is often lower than presidential elections. Local elections usually have a lower turnout also. “The right to vote and to meaningfully vote is something people die for around the world,” says Ilgenfritz. Because we directly elect the senate, representatives, and other local administrative positions, our vote has more influence than in the electoral college election of the president. Ilgenfritz explains that in order to get favorable policies passed we must “keep the pressure on them.” Applying pressure on elected officials extends further than voting.
In Lancaster County, the primary registration date ends April 21. The primary election takes place on May 20. Fall registration ends on October 6. General municipal election occurs on November 4. More information about locations and absentee ballots can be found at www.co.lancaster.pa.us.