According to surveys of the American electorate, confidence in the federal government is falling precipitously. In short, a majority of Americans no longer trust their government. Some Americans believe the government is run by smarmy politicians and uncaring bureaucrats whose only interest is self-interest. Others believe the situation is much worse and that government power has become a weapon used to suppress dissent. As a result, many Americans now fear their government. Even those who still want to believe in the federal government admit that it is fast becoming dysfunctional. There may have been times in our nation’s history when the people had less confidence in government than now, but there have not been many.
Different people give different reasons for the sad state of affairs in the federal government. Some people believe that Congress has become a place used by its members to fatten their wallets at the expense of the taxpayer. Others believe Barack Obama has transformed the office of the president into a quasi-dictatorship. Others believe the Supreme Court has become a hopelessly politicized body that ignores the Constitution and legislates from the bench. Many believe all of these things. I don’t disagree with any of these opinions but have a different perspective on where to point the finger of blame.
We can blame self-serving members of Congress. There are certainly plenty of those. We can blame a tyrannical Barack Obama. He is not quite a dictato, but he certainly displays the arrogance of one. We can blame the nine justices of the Supreme Court. Their decisions often appear to be guided more by politics than the Constitution. But blaming members of Congress, the president, and Supreme Court justices for dysfunction in government is like treating the symptoms of an illness. Treating the symptoms of an illness might bring some short-term relieve, but it will not cure the problem. The only way to solve the problem of dysfunction in the federal government is to identify the root cause of it and treat that. I submit that the root cause of government dysfunction can be found in these hallowed words from the Preamble to our Constitution: “We the people…”
Alexis de Tocqueville is credited with saying that in a democracy people get the government they deserve. He wasn’t talking about specific American individuals, but Americans collectively. Granted, people who worked hard to elect someone other than Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi do not deserve to be governed by these purveyors of leftwing lunacy. But collectively speaking, politicians like Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi do not serve in public office unless and until “we the people” elect them, and there my fellow Americans is the rub.
Collectively Americans do not trust Congress, but at the local level we continue to elect and re-elect a rogue’s gallery of self-serving, ethically-challenged politicians who put their personal agendas ahead of what is best for America. This unfortunate situation is the result of the tired old political adage “he may be a crook but he is our crook,” a mentality that is rotting the soul of our nation. This I’ll-get-mine mentality was the greatest fear of America’s Founders. The Founders knew what would happen if our country lost the strong moral underpinnings that made America special. This is why they established a republican form of democracy rather than a pure democracy.
The sad truth is that people who are willing to elect crooks are no better than the crooks they elect and, as de Tocqueville said, they get the government they deserve. The problem, of course, is that we all suffer when those who elect politicians like Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi get the government they deserve. “We the people” in the collective sense suffer from the misguided and self-serving actions of “you the people” at the local level.
In its April 2013 edition, TOWNHALL identified what it called “The A-List.” The list is comprised of “Politicians We Can’t Believe Were Elected—or Re-elected.” It is quite a collection of crooks, misfits, and ne’er-do-wells. Consider some of the politicians “we the people” have elected or re-elected over the years. Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts—had he been anyone other than a Kennedy—would have gone to jail for manslaughter or even murder for driving off of a bridge, most likely in a drunken state, and then leaving a young women trapped in his car to drown. Instead he was fined for leaving the scene of an accident and re-elected by the people of Massachusetts many times. He went on to become a liberal icon and the grand old man of the U.S. Senate. I have always wondered how the victim’s parents must have felt over the years as they saw Ted Kennedy lauded as a hero of the downtrodden while their daughter—forgotten by everyone but them—lay still and cold in her grave.
The people of Louisiana elected Democrat William Jefferson to a seat in Congress only to find shortly thereafter that FBI agents had found $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. In spite of this, the people of his district re-elected Jefferson in 2006. Remember the political adage, “He may be a crook but he is our crook.” Jefferson was later convicted and sent to prison for 13 years on a laundry list of corruption charges.
Others to make the “A-List” include: Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Representative Barney Frank, Representative Alcee Hastings, Representative Jesse Jackson, Representative Charlie Rangel, and Representative Gerry Studs. I doubt these are the types of politicians Alexis de Tocqueville had in mind when he said Americans get the government they deserve, but his words could not have been more prescient.