Power & politics: Americans getting government they deserve

tsj column writers - power and politicsBy Zachary Toillion

Americans disapprove of their government on almost every level. President Obama’s approval rating has been underwater for over a year and Congress has had an approval rating of less than 30 percent for more than a decade. Confidence in the Supreme Court has reached an all time low. It is easy for the average citizen to look at government and see that it is an institution that clearly is not working.

What most fail to realize is they, the voter, are the reason why. In this sense, Americans are getting the government they deserve; a government that illogically hurdles from one crisis to another with little sense and almost no progress.

Americans clearly are not voting based on what they actually believe, opting to focus more on a candidate’s narrative, personality or gaffes. One only needs to look at opinion polling to come to this conclusion. 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases. 60 percent support reforms to the Patriot Act that restrict the government’s ability to monitor American citizens. 60 percent support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. 76 percent support raising the minimum wage to over ten dollars. 60 percent of Americans supported the lifting of the Cuban embargo, and 59 percent support an Iranian nuclear deal.

Despite these views, Americans overwhelmingly elected a Congress that is opposed to every single one of the aforementioned policies. In fact, Congress has directly rebuked voters-reauthorizing the Patriot Act, voting down a raise in the minimum wage, not debating immigration reform, and voting down universal gun background checks. How does the average voter react to this continual snubbing of their beliefs? Re-electing over 95 percent of incumbent politicians running for reelection every two years.

Americans overwhelmingly supported ending the war in Iraq, and wanted to do it faster than the Obama administration, and as far back as 2010 only around 20 percent of the public thought the War in Afghanistan was worth fighting. When we withdrew from Iraq, we left no residual forces. Americans supported it. Now, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the decision. They disagree with the very policies they endorsed as recently as last year.

Voters want to decrease the debt and deficit. Meanwhile, we express support for more government services and lower taxes-something that would explode the debt and deficit they say they want to reduce. This is nothing short of political schizophrenia, but it is never openly talked about by politicians who tell voters everything is going to be all right. Voters then reward the politicians for telling them what they want to hear.

It is time to tell the voters what they don’t want to hear. We are getting the government we deserve by rewarding gridlock and voting against our own self interest. If we continue to do it, the diminished country our children inherit will not be on the shoulders of politicians-it will be on us. In a Democratic Republic, we elect officials to represent our political beliefs since having everyone in the country vote on every issue would be too time consuming. There is no doubt that large swaths of Americans clearly do not understand that simple fact, are ignorant to it, or do not care.

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