Friday, July 15, 2011

Stop Blaming the Government and the Politicians

If China was going down the tubes (the reality for China is quite the opposite), then it would be appropriate to blame the government. In China, the government runs the country. In America, “we the people” run the country. That’s the problem. We now have a democracy— the very kind of democracy that frightened the hell out of the Founding Fathers who wrote the U.S. Constitution. That’s why they gave us a republic instead. The way it was supposed to work— in the original plan— a person might get elected to office by voters who were so petulant and spiteful that they were demanding a complete government shutdown, but then once that person joined other elected leaders in the seat of government, he or she would work in cooperation for the good of the country. And most essential of all, the voters were expected to be sophisticated enough to know they couldn’t always get their own way on everything. That’s how a republic works. That’s how America is supposed to work. That’s all in the past.

Last election, about 50 Republicans (most affiliated with the Tea Party) were sent to Washington with marching orders to shut down the government, and damned if they didn’t do exactly that. That’s true democracy in action. Why should we be surprised at what they’re doing when they said they were going to do it?

So how did America get to this point? I blame four things: Ubiquitous and incessant polling. Massive political advertising on television. The emergence of our current system of primary elections to choose candidates. And 40 years of “dumb down” public schooling. We now have elected leaders who first become candidates by winning a primary, as opposed to being selected by party officials. All too often, this “winning” is achieved by the hiring the best PR agency to design the most effective attack ads while, at the same time, raising the most money to pay for the whole negative advertising process. And the attack ads work because the electorate just isn’t very bright. But here’s the killer. Once in office, elected officials make their decisions and policies based on the poll numbers. And then they crow that they’re following the will of the people, which they are. By definition, that’s democracy, but that’s not how it was supposed to be.

Democracies, if we look back at the historical record of true democracies, never last more than a century or two, and this includes the Athenian democracy in ancient Greece which went belly up after 172 years. The Founding Fathers knew this. In a true democracy, the voters don’t just get what they want. They get what they deserve.

Also see: Dying From "Death By Polling" 6/27/11

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