Our Cynical Age
We live in a cynical age. That’s not just me after reading too many stories about Democrats failing to live up to the standards they hold Republicans. Congress’ approval rating is down there with HMOs:
This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973. The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.
Congress is now nestled at the bottom of the list of Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions rankings, along with HMOs. Just 15% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in HMOs.
Democrats have ticked off the Left for not ending the Iraq War, while the Right is displeased with President Bush and certain Republicans over immigration. The current political situation pleases few partisans.
Congress as an institution has never been particularly popular. The re-election rate of incumbants is high so voters at least tolerate their own representatives. Yet I’m surprised at the level of disapproval. 86% of the public doesn’t have confidence in Congress. It’s almost impossible to get 86% of anybody to agree on anything. This data has gotten Tammy Bruce calling for a constitutional change to hold new elections when there’s so much displeasure. Don Surber jokes (I think) that we should deport Congress.
The public’s negative attitude goes beyond strickly politics. The NY Times nonfiction bestsellers list contains such “pick-me-ups” like AlGore’s The Assault on Reason, Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great, and Lee Iacocca’s screed Where Have All the Leaders Gone?. Readers also hunger for positive stories about great people. Hence we see Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein and Michael Beschloss’ Presidential Courage also on the list.
With so much dissatisfaction there should be an opening for an outsider Presidntial candidate to sweep in promoting real change and opposing Washington’s failures. But with campaign finance laws as they are and the difficulties of third parties such a voice can only come from a super-rich person able to personally finance their campaign. Thus the talk about Michael Bloomberg running.
The ideal candidate appears to be a military man. Seeing how Wesley Clark did in 2004 that person would have to run as an independent reaping the praise of the military while avoiding the scorn for politicians and political parties. This person could even support the unpopular Iraq War as long as he projected seriousness, earnestness, and acknowledge how and why things went wrong.
You’d think Sen. John McCain would fit well into this picture. His bluntness is his strength. But McCain has been too soiled by Washington. Too many compromises and political machinations have alienated him from many especially Republicans.
Our culture of cyncism gave Sen. Barack Obama an opening. No one quite knows what the Audacity of Hope is but people were willing to listen. Unfortunately for him the political meat grinder has bloodied him.
What about Fred Thompson? Even though he’s been knee-deep in Washington he’s known as an actor playing a district attorney. Since he hasn’t fleshed out a lot of what a Thompson administration would be like people can project whatever they like upon him. When he fully enters the Presidential race I expect him to get bloodied like Obama. That’s the game of the MSM as well as Thompson’s opponents.
(It can’t be a small businessman, who are fairly respected, because if they had enough money to self-fund a campaign it would be because their business wasn’t small. Big business confidence is at the same level as that of Congress.)
I think having a distrust in Congress and government is healthy for a free society such a public lack of confidence could have negative repercussions. Mark Tapscott writes,
Nothing is so critical to the continuing health of a republic than the confidence of people that their elected representatives have their best interests at heart in their decision-making. Once that confidence is lost, a revolution of one sort or another becomes likely. In America, such a crisis could be right around the corner.
When there’s revolution all bets are off. There’s no guarantee things would be better than before. Look at 20th Century Russian history for a brutal example.