26 January 2011

Conservative magic - turning political antipathy into government antipathy

A recent article in Harper's magazine contains some intriguing insights into the relationship between Americans and their government. Americans would seem to be utterly disillusioned with their federal government these days. The right insists it is too big and taxes them too much, the left insists it is too cozy with corporations and too militaristic. Fifty years ago, 70 per cent of Americans said they trusted their federal government. Today that has been reversed: when a recent Gallup poll asked Americans what they thought of it, 72 per cent of the replies were pejorative.

But are Americans unhappy with government? Other statistics suggest otherwise. For example, when asked about particular services provided by the federal government, whether it be Social Security, Medicare, the military, the Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control, NASA, education or highways, Americans show strong support. So what is going on here? Do Americans hate government or love it? The Harper's article suggests the answer is probably both. They love government services, but politicians not so much.

Republicans exploit this disenchantment with politicians, i.e. with them, to justify downsizing government as a whole. A clever trick, and it seems to work, at least among a portion of the electorate. An amusing example was evident at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Robert Inglis. A retired gentleman righteously warned Inglis to, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." At a Tea Party rally protesting federal spending, when a reporter reminded an elderly lady that the federal government provided her Social Security, she thought for a moment, then smiled and said, "Maybe I'm at the wrong rally." Indeed.

Most Americans won't be fooled by the Republican sleight of hand, but with a little help from media rabble-rousers and well-heeled corporations, enough can be fooled to win an election. If the Democrats want to regain control of the House, they might start by removing the confusion between politics and services that Republicans so cleverly exploit.

1 comment:

  1. If Democrats want to win back the people's trust then they should give them the services they need and want. The people are expecting that the government will provide the basic services but if they do not receive those services from the leaders who are in position then they will give the position to someone else.