A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Americans Losing Faith In Their Government

It has always been a hallmark of this country that its citizens believed they had the best form of government in the world. They haven't always been happy about how that government has performed, but even in those times most would say they wouldn't trade our system of government for any other. But that may be changing. At least that is what the results of some new polls are showing.

A recent Gallup Poll, taken between December 14th and 17th, shows that only 46% of Americans now rate oour system of government as being "the best" or "above average", while 34% rate it as only "average" and 21% rate it as "below average" or "the worst". Here is how the poll breaks down by age and political affiliation (with the figure given being the percentage who rate our government as "the best" or "above average"):

18 to 34...............36%
35 to 54...............50%
55 and older...............49%

Republican...............45%
Independent...............41%
Democrats...............51%

None of those numbers are very good, and they are even worse among young people (who have witnessed fewer years of the government at work). They are far lower than I would have expected. But it gets even worse. Another Gallup Poll, also conducted between December 14th and 17th, shows that 77% of Americans believe that the way the current government is working is actually "causing serious harm" to the country (while 19% say it is not and 2% have no opinion). And this is true across the political spectrum:

CURRENT POLITICS IN WASHINGTON ARE CAUSING SERIOUS HARM TO THE COUNTRY.
Republicans...............87%
Independents...............79%
Democrats...............68%

This result is no real surprise, considering the gridlock that has gripped the government for the past few years. Even though the country is facing serious problems (including high employment, rising poverty, and a failing economy), it seems to be incapable of tackling those problems. And that incapability is rooted in the inability to compromise on anything.

While there are substantial numbers of right-wingers and left-wingers in this country, the truth is that most Americans are moderates. They like the way this government has worked in the past. Regardless of which party was in power, issues were thoroughly debated and then a compromise was found (somewhere between the competing points of view) that moved the country forward -- and if that compromise proved ineffective, it was altered with another compromise.

One could argue whether this is the most effective way of solving the country's problems, but the majority of the public liked it -- and they liked the moderating effect it had on the political extremes. In fact, it could be argued that a democracy must master the art of compromise to exist. Failing to compromise effectively means the country would eventually be ruled by a tyranny of either the right or the left, and while extremists might like that, the huge majority of Americans would not. But that is exactly what is happening right now in this government.

The Republican Party has been taken over by the ultra-right-wing extremists known as teabaggers. These people view compromise as being evil, and refuse to even consider it. They continue to block any proposal offered by the Democrats, even though the president has showed time after time that he is a moderate and is willing to compromise for the good of the country. For these teabaggers, nothing less than the imposition of their own ideology on the country (the tyranny of the right) is acceptable. And even though this concept was soundly rejected by the voters in the last election, the teabaggers refuse to budge.

I believe this is why too many Americans are starting to lose faith in their system of government, and the way it is currently operating. They are not stupid, and they see that the ability to compromise is effectively dead in Washington right now. They see the Republicans preparing to drive our government into insolvency, further damaging our fragile economy, just to impose their own ideology -- regardless of the costs. And they don't like it.

I am a left-winger (and proud of it), but I also recognize that most Americans are moderates -- and I recognize that compromise is generally a good thing (which can rein in the excesses of political extremism). It is time for the Republican Party to come to their senses and accept that also. A democracy cannot survive without compromise.

1 comment:

  1. I once saw a question talking about going too far in one direction...How far east can you go before you're heading west? My question is how far Right does the Republican Party have to go before it is going Left? That's why I believe the Dems will be the New Right and another party will fill their slot by becoming the New Left. If we get really lucky, we will have a third party, the New Center which will be in line with the majority of the rest of the country. Then we won't have the lesser of two evils but a coalition where compromise has to happen.

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