The Degradation of Politics

Posted on November 27, 2011

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Wind the clocks back two years to the bright days of 2009; Congressional approval ratings were at the highest they’ve been since they were elected, and the President’s approval rating was at an all-time high. Hope was still in the air for the young president and the fresh Democratic congress. Since the days after 2010, the approval rating of Congress has fallen steadily to 9%, and has rarely gone above 30%.

Who is to blame?

Fast forward to November, 2011, where disillusioned voters overturn various statutes, legislation, and laws various Republican elected officials are attempting to pass. Take, for one example, Ohio. Sixty percent of voters in Ohio overturned a law that would have curbed the collective bargaining rights of labor unions. Also take into consideration Mississippi, where fifty-five percent of voters rejected a personhood law that would have  unconstitutionally banned abortions. One more example:  take Arizona, where a recall election has claimed the tenure of Russell Pearce, the anti-immigration champion who has passed a multitude of legislation making life uncomfortable for immigrants.

Essentially, the voters who elected these officials are now rejecting exactly what the politicians all said they were going to do during their campaigns. Ohio governor John Kasich vowed to curb unions when he took office in January.  Reince Priebus, the GOP chairman, expressed his pro-life opinions on behalf of the Republican Party by saying, “I believe Life beings absolutely at the time of conception so […] the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause protects that independent human life.” And Russell Pearce has crusaded against immigration since the early 2000’s, even proposing legislation that would deny children with immigrant parents born in the US citizenship rights, thwarting the “anchor baby.”

It’s easy to see that these GOP representatives and governors are just doing exactly what they ran on; doing exactly what the voters elected them to do. Therefore it’s difficult to blame them for what they tried to do, and what they tried to pass. Then who could you blame for this awkward shift in mid-term politics on the part of the electorate?

On one hand, you could easily blame the voters themselves. Less than thirty-eight percent of voters turned out to elect their fresh congressmen in 2010, which is usually typical of a midterm election. However, with such a strong minority electing representatives, it’s easy to see that it is very possible that the wrong people are placed into office. Apathetic tendencies towards the political process are a very real problem in the modern world. Some even argue that it’s the uneducated electorate that is most damning when it comes to elections. Isaac Moore, of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, estimated that 25 million Americans vote blindly, based on an estimation of how many students vote because of peer influence. He concluded his report by saying “it’s hard to keep a considerable hope for a better future when it seems that for every educated voter there is an ignorant one to counter his or her vote.”

However, one could also easily blame party politics. We live in a country that swings either one way or the other, with only two political parties to dictate the “right of way.” Bill Maher, on his show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” explained that “I don’t think that [Americans] have moved to the left, I think they’ve always been there.” He then went on to explain how the Democratic Party has been left up to decide who those voters are, but have not yet done that. The voters who recalled Pearce, who denied Personhood rights, who stood up for unions, these people are very obviously disillusioned voters. In a bad economy, it’s exceptionally easy to vote for “the other guy” in hopes that they can fix it instead. However in doing such, they elected someone who stood on moral ground much unlike theirs. Is it fair to have a country where one or the other is the only way? Perhaps party politics is the reason why very little gets done in this Congressional tenure. Perhaps party politics is the reason why voter turnout is so low, and is decreasing every election. Perhaps party politics is to blame for the disillusionment of millions of American voters.

No matter how you slice the issue, it’s obvious that something is not right here. Whether it is because the electorate needs to educate themselves properly on the standpoints of their representatives before electing them or because of the frustrating standoff between Democrats and Republicans, something must change. Or else something will give. And Americans must ask themselves what it will take to make that change, for the benefit of all.

Reported by Ian Siepker

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Posted in: Opinion, Politics