2013 Symposium: Do You Think The Average American Citizen Is Tired Of Politics?

Cartwright: Undoubtedly. Hell, I’m sick of politics. It’s a terrible little game that gets played with the political elite in this country and all the average American citizens are just pawns getting screwed in the process. I wouldn’t change our system, our constitutional republic, for anything else in the world. Yes, we have our problems, but it’s the best game in town when you compare it to socialist states or communist states or other democracies.

It’s very important to distinguish between the American people and the American taxpayers. They’re two very different things. Those Americans who live off the government dole really don’t care about politics or follow politics. As long as they’re getting their handouts, they’re fat and happy. If you’re a taxpayer and you’re paying into the system to take care of the people who don’t work or pay taxes, and I’m not talking about people on Social Security, you probably have more interest in what’s happening politically. It just boils down to the fact that taxpayers are sick and tired of the bickering in Washington, the gridlock, and the never-ending fleecing of the American taxpayers. Doing what’s best for the American people and being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be that hard. Listen and don’t get me wrong. Both parties are to blame for this, and the media is to blame for stoking the fires and trying to promote their own agendas. They get viewers foaming at the mouths over their biased reports and never give the full story and all the facts and that just makes matters worse.

I think one of the biggest problems is that we have career politicians in Washington and we have these political machines that prevent good candidates from getting elected. So, they’ve created a certain culture of politicians that are the face of Washington. After all, the government is run by staffers and bureaucrats. The elected officials are just the faces that give the people the appearance that they have a say in government.

I think the average person in America sees that we have problems in this country and wants them solved. A waterline breaks on your street and public works is out to fix it pretty quick. But that’s not the case with the Congress. It would take the Congress years to get that fixed. They’d have to have hearings and get some agency to do a study then deliberate it and put some additional riders on the bill to fix it and deliberate it some more and so on and so on. The American people don’t like that. They see a problem and they want it fixed. Yes, the Congress has to deal with bigger problems than a waterline but solving the problem shouldn’t be that hard. We need tax reform. Get everyone together and come up with a solution. Oh, but wait a minute…there’s special interest groups and lobbyists that muddy the waters. Imagine if there were special interest groups and lobbyists that interfered with getting the waterline fixed. And so, it just goes on and on and the real problems never do get fixed. They just patch them from one election to another just enough to get by and make it look like they’re doing something.

North Carolina: The average American is more than tired of politics and all of its ramifications and riff raff. The constant barrage of underhanded political dealings, political party misrepresentations, name-calling, accusations, political perks, wasteful spending, cover-ups, ethics hearings, censures, scandals, bribes, unconstitutional legislation, powerful lobby associations, special interest leanings, one-sided views, stolen elections, kickbacks, favoritism, and so much more, has exhausted, maddened and turned Americans off to just about anything to do with politics. The disconnection and apathy towards politics is not a good thing, as it creates an unhealthy detachment from representative government, but it is understandable with the daily dose of negativity, pettiness, untruths and lack of concern for America’s decline that modern politics has brought to the national scene. Americans are politics weary and are ready for a turnover in the whole process. Citizens desire a return to higher standards in the political arena, which entails politicians reinventing themselves through founding principles and turning their sights on the people they represent, rather than themselves. With limited hope of that happening, citizens are suggesting a clean sweep of politics and politicians and replacing them with a completely new slate of candidates willing to follow the will of the people In order to right the wrongs of today’s politics, Americans must become outraged at the repetitive battering of political rhetoric and tactics. They must seek revival of true political discourse and set themselves on a path to finding deserving and qualified everyday people, with character, to brave the world of political nonsense and return America to its founding roots.

Orlando: People are busy, and have gotten considerably busier. This fact, more than any other, has contributed to what scholars who study political engagement refer to as the “decline hypothesis.” When initial measures of political participation were taken in the 1950’s, most families had one person working full-time outside the home. Full-time work meant 35 hours a week with 1-2 weeks paid vacation per year. The range of consumer electronics was fairly low, computers were as big as a room and had the processing power of a pocket calculator, and there were only three channels on television. This picture of simplicity glosses over a great deal of inequality, racial discrimination, poverty, and gender subordination, but does explain why levels of political participation were high. Now, on the other hand, a family of four needs two people working 40 hour weeks, frequently divided between multiple part time jobs, neither of which offers health insurance, much less vacation time. Consumer electronics are many and varied, requiring both money to purchase and time to maintain. Cable or satellite television has penetrated as much as 40% of American homes, and communication technologies make it possible and therefore provide a sense of obligation to stay in touch with many more people. The time to do all of these tasks has to come from somewhere, and political involvement is frequently a luxury.

People are not necessarily tired of politics. They are tired, in general. The last thing they want to do with their already limited leisure time is interact with a government that seems to have little effect on their daily lives. For most people, the only obvious interactions they have with government are paying taxes, getting speeding tickets, and standing in line at the DMV. They do not see the corn subsidy which makes Twinkies cheaper than broccoli. They do not see the control over the supply of oil artificially deflating the cost of their online shopping. To discover those interactions takes considerable work.

Asking citizens to be constantly involved in politics is asking a lot from them. Much could be done to alleviate this fatigue. News media could stop representing politics as something larger than individuals and external to their day to day lives, which would help make getting involved in politics feel a little less overwhelming. Government agencies could do more to make their efforts known to the public, so they know who to thank or who to blame. Political parties could use “soft money” on legitimate voter education initiatives, instead of barely disguised campaign ads. Political candidates could speak honestly and simply about the issues important to them and their constituents, instead of offering a constant stream of platitudes which must be dissected. People are not tired of politics; they are tired of the demands politics places on them.

Michigan: Yes. Most Americans feel that there is nothing we can do about our politicians and political system. Really, what can we do? The men that can change our system are too afraid of losing votes or their jobs to do anything. Almost half of our population is on some type of government program and doesn’t want anything to change. Most of us are just concerned with keeping a job and paying our bills.

Washington, DC: Public participation in the political process is one of the cornerstones of democracy. Therefore, it is important for ordinary citizens to exercise their constitutional rights and get involved into politics—be it on a national, state, or local level. There are numerous traditional outlets such as voting, joining an interest group or civic organization, donating money or time to a campaign, attending political rallies, or running for a political office. Also, thanks to technological progress, people can turn to social media to make their voices heard, get to know their representatives better, learn political news the moment they happen, and connect with those who share their political causes from all over the country.

However, in his book “Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics,” Stanford University political scientist Morris P. Fiorina—based on extensive data—argues that while Americans get involved into politics at a larger scale than ever before, they also become increasingly more disillusioned with it. The main reason for that, according to Fiorina, is that while the American public is largely moderate when it comes to political issues, parties which represent them are much more polarized and divided. As data demonstrates, modern American politics is predominantly driven by a small fraction of ideologically charged activists. Consequently, the elected officials fail to correctly represent their electorates’ interests which, in its turn, leads to the public’s frustration with politics overall. Nowadays, both parties mostly operate on various issues based on strict ideology, while the public is more fluid when it comes to them.

The recent government shutdown has clearly supported Fiorina’s argument because it was obviously propelled by partisan politicking and not public interest.

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