This political season has ignited passion for some, fury for others, and frustration for many. One central source of voter frustration comes from the lack of action by politicians. Many have asked what exactly do politicians do. Why is it that politicians cannot accomplish anything? It, like voting, is an important question, one worth a closer look.
First, and most important, is the reality that our country was not designed to be efficient. The system of checks and balances envisioned by the Founding Fathers was one that lends itself perfectly towards bureaucratic inefficiency. Any system that allows one branch of government to block another will provide the opportunity for obstructionism and gridlock.
However, it is equally true that modern politicians are increasingly efficient in their inefficiency. This, likely, comes from a number of factors. The greatest reason, arguably, is the rise of social media, which allows politicians to turn their act of obstructionism into a pulpit to preach their message and build support for future campaigns. Indeed, the desire for politicians to get reelected rather than the desire to serve the public interest has undermined every essential function once performed by politicians, and has sadly led to the increase in government inefficiency.
Along those same lines, the increasing cost of political campaigns has forced politicians to rely on corporate donations, and those corporate interests expect returns on their political investments. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and lax election campaign finance laws have allowed this corrosiveness to continue to occur.
Yet corporate donations and media hype are easy answers to the question of political inefficiency. Far more troubling and challenging a factor to understand is our responsibility as individual voters for these political headaches. For while campaign finances and and media hype are the largest factors, they are factors that are only responding to be public pressure. Increasingly, American citizens are unwilling to compromise, and this public opinion is reflected in large scale political inefficiency.
Once upon a time in this nation, voters recognized that elected officials wouldn’t necessarily reflect each and every one of their views, but rather voted on big picture ideals. They voted based on views for the country, and in so doing often embraced a willingness to compromise not seen for far too long. By contrast, modern American voters refuse to entertain ideas that are different than their own, shutting down any chance for compromise, and pressuring politicians to be just as obtuse in their ability to listen to and incorporate opposing viewpoints.
So how do we fix this? How do we get back to an American government that works for its voters? It starts with each and everyone of us being willing to accept and work with different opinions while moving towards an America that may not be perfect, but at least works for everyone. If we are willing to do that, it will be reflected in the attitudes of our elected officials. However, if we as a nation cannot move toward a more accepting attitude, then it will also be true that our politicians cannot accomplish anything.