The government shutdown may be over, but the issues that got us there remain an unfortunate reality
This just in: Congress is officially less popular than Miley Cyrus, early morning alarms and tropical depressions.
According to a poll conducted and reported by NBC and The Wall Street Journal, nearly 60% of Americans would be content with throwing out those who compose our Congress and replacing the entire House and Senate with more qualified constituents.
A recently reported Gallup poll also reported a meager 18 percent of Americans as being satisfied with the way our nation is being governed — in other words, we can now conclusively report that 18 percent of Americans don’t own a television and choose to forego their morning paper. Perhaps 18 percent of Americans have been in the midst of an epic bar bet that involves ignoring any semblance of media about our bureaucrats. Maybe they’ve been scuba diving in the cerulean waters of Fiji for the past three years.
I’d like to be one of those 18 percent. Sounds like they have it pretty great.
In all seriousness, Gallup’s 18 percent is the lowest-reported percentage of government satisfaction ever reported since 1971 — the year Gallup started asking the question.
In addition, NBC and WSJ’s 60 percent is also the highest number ever recorded in their poll. Better yet, there wasn’t as much party division within that number as you might think: 52 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans agree with the sentiment.
It’s a 15 percent discrepancy, sure, but it still translates to a majority in each party being unbelievably unsatisfied with their lawmakers. To say that you’d be in support of blindly firing everybody that sits on Capitol Hill — that communicates an incredible amount of anger with our government, one unseen in much of our nation’s history.
Clearly, this isn’t just because of the government shutdown we’re still left reeling over. With Republicans having absorbed much the blame regarding the shutdown, there must be some other factors at play that have infuriated so many Americans — in particular, over half of our nation’s Democrats.
It only makes sense to ask ourselves what’s happening now that’s making so many Americans hate their leaders.
“I try not to get involved in politics too much — people get so defensive nowadays,” said psychology sophomore Katherine Ranton. “Honestly, though, I think the entire government is to blame for the shutdown.”
“They can’t cooperate, they can’t get along, they can’t make a solid decision,” Ranton said. “This is a result of the government refusing to work together. Nobody’s willing to compromise or do their job.”
The lack of compromise Ranton touches on is precisely what’s led to the shutdown we’ve just suffered. Despite popular belief, the inherent cause of the shutdown wasn’t necessarily funding disagreements over Obamacare.
Sure, it’s definitely the catalyst behind the shutdown — but the root of the issue seems to be the extreme polarization that’s grown in our Congress these past several years.
A divided Congress has always existed. Heck, it’s the reason political parties exist in the first place. The methodology of our government’s design, checks and balances, has almost always been able to foster the needs of two completely different political parties — under the stipulation that those parties will compromise when necessary.
Simply put, a lack of compromise leads to a lack of government. During the shutdown, that was a reality being lived out all-too literally.
Whether it was Obamacare or another bundled benefits reform, our polarized bureaucracy might as well have been a ticking time bomb. The health care law, in this instance, served as something of a boot stepping on a landmine. The bomb was going to go off either way — Obamacare just happened to be the stimulus it needed to explode.
Acknowledging the division in our government, the next logical step seems to be assigning culpability. In this case, it seems the accountable party isn’t necessarily Republicans or Democrats — rather, it’s both of these parties neglecting the needs of the many for the demands of special interest groups.
The weighty privileges we give to our representatives reflects the weighty responsibility they have to represent our will. We aren’t directly giving power to Ted Cruz’s will or even Barack Obama’s will. We’re giving power to these men with the understanding that they will serve as a conduit for the will of the masses.
As of late, though, it seems like a few loud special-interest groups have been more influential than the mass our government exists to serve.
“It’s a very small group of people who got us (in the shutdown) — it’s not a political party,” said media production senior Stewart Lyons. “It’s five or six really extreme people who aren’t truly Republicans or Democrats that wind up giving the rest of us a bad name.”
“Now that we’re here, the faces we see are Obama and Boehner — those are the mascots, but their powers aren’t even equal,” added Lyons. “It’s totally Boehner’s fault.”
Dissent about the blame behind the shutdown has divided many students in a way that mirrors the division within our governmental leadership.
“It’s Obama’s lack of willingness to compromise, ultimately,” said freshman hotel and restaurant management major Ashlyn Smith. “Republicans have sent forward so many compromises, but if Obama doesn’t fund his precious Obamacare, nothing else will get through. It’s his way or the highway.”
Still, nobody’s completely innocent in the matter. An unwillingness to compromise or deviate from your own personal will for the betterment of the nation is inexcusable. To blame a single party for such a dynamic, multi-layered issue seems an answer far too agenda-driven for this issue. What we should really be looking for is lasting reform — to have the will of the nation no longer overshadowed by the outcries of influential extremists.
Despite the shutdown’s end, there really isn’t much to celebrate. Agendas and pride need to be laid to rest — it’s time our government came back to life.
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]