BY VERN TURNER
In Sunday morning’s newspaper public opinion polls were published concerning the national attitude. The vast majority, over 60%, felt that the country was going in the wrong direction. Almost 90% felt that Congress was not doing its job. President Obama had the highest approval ratings of any question asked at around 40%. Republicans held a less than 5% edge over Democrats with a third of the people undecided. The interesting part is that the Congress has a 92% incumbency rate, this for a body whose approval rating is just above dengue fever.
Clearly there is cognitive dissonance here.
Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is completing his fourth straight term in office, but was elected by only 17% of the eligible Texans in 2010. As with the nation, Texas has a 30% unregistered voter level.
During mid-terms only about 48% show up to vote while during local elections, we’re lucky to see 20% show up. The combination of voter apathy and high incumbency clearly reflect the consequences of our in-action by sagging poll numbers from citizen/voter satisfaction numbers.
The consequences of voters putting the same people back in office time after time results in an enabled and entrenched officialdom that sees itself as the divas of politics: “We can do no wrong.”
The problem, from the polls’ results, is that the elected officials can do no right. Of course that assumes that the Congress is willing to do anything. One might note that the current collection of incumbents has passed less legislation than any Congress in our history. This begs the question: “How do those incumbents look to you now?”
If voter apathy continues on its merry course, our government will cease to function at all and thus create an opening for the silk suit crowd to finally achieve their goal of a corporatocracy run by the few plutocrats who fund the incumbents, e.g., the Koch brothers.
Every thinking pundit on both sides sees this as the vacuum filler consequence of people not voting.
I used to think term limits was just another gimmick, but now I’m not so sure. If U.S. senators were limited to two terms and U.S. representatives to four terms, we might start to see more real people run for office. This idea must be accompanied, of course, by a Constitutional amendment that requires all elections be publicly funded and that any elected official would be barred for life from lobbying.
There are slogans going around that say anyone not participating in politics is part of the problem. I usually throw those things out with the eggshells, but these days, with our most dysfunctional government ever, maybe there is some merit to it.
It begins with our lack of quality civics education in school. If we are to survive as a democratic republic we must educate our children to take care of their country when they become voter eligible.
That means they should become aware of issues and candidates from the beginning. They must be prepared to vote and know what they’re voting for.
Of course, in backward-thinking areas like Texas and other deep red states, the elected school boards do things like expunge Thomas Jefferson from history texts because he had progressive thoughts. So, it is incumbent on thinking people everywhere to do the right thing and help prepare their children to be protectors of the nation.
If they don’t, the consequences will be dire.
Imagine the consequences of our history had certain actions not been performed or been done a different way. What if Lyndon Johnson had listened to President Eisenhower’s admonition about the military-industrial complex or George Ball’s warning about entering into the Vietnam action? We probably wouldn’t have had to endure the disgrace of Richard Nixon and the worst geopolitical period in our history before the Iraq invasion.
Imagine the consequences if Chief Justice William Rehnquist had required that all the ballots in Florida be counted in 2000. We would not have had to endure the eight years of Bush blundering around the world, a multi-trillion dollar war era on credit, a collapse of the banking and investing environment around the world or the subsequent consequences of Justices Roberts and Alito being added to the Supreme Court, thus giving backwardness in America a whole new meaning.
There are always consequences to our actions. This coming election will determine the next set of consequences for the United States while we still have two more years of “that man” in the White House, or two more years of watching mortal combat between Congress and the executive ease due to an upgrade in intelligence and integrity in our body politic.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.