America’s in rough shape. You might have sensed it from the headlines or the rants that appear regularly on social media.
But it’s even worse than you might have thought. I think I know the reason why. And I have an idea to help us take a step back from the brink we’re now flirting with.
What Does the Data Tell Us?
My wakeup came from looking at recent polling data from two leading institutions, Gallup and Pew Research Center.
I was amazed to see how far confidence has fallen across the breadth of American institutions. Just look at these figures representing the percentage of people who say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institution:
America is in bad shape
The figures above each represent all-time lows. We have never had less faith in our key institutions. Consider:
- Barely one in four persons have confidence in the Presidency and Supreme Court.
- Just one in six or seven of us has confidence in newspapers, big business, and the criminal justice system.
- And only one in fourteen trusts Congress.
Pew Research tracks public trust in government. Just 20% percent of people say they trust the government to do what is right just about always or at least most of the time.
We started losing our trust in government in the 1960s, which by the mid-1970s had fallen to about half the country. The last time half of Americans trusted the government was very briefly in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Since then, we’ve seen a steady decline.
It's understandable then, although incredibly depressing, that most of us are not happy with the way things are going.
We're Starting to Doubt Ourselves As Well
This is all bad enough, but there are two even more alarming trends. The first is that we're starting to doubt our ability to get out of this mess, with 56% agreeing the country can't solve many of its important problems.
The can-do American attitude is fading, along with our feeling of exceptionalism.
Some of you might be thinking "We've been through tough times before. We'll get through these times as well."
I'd agree, except for the second truly alarming trend, which is we're increasingly being primed to attribute bad motives to those we disagree with. More on this in a moment.
Politicians Lost Control of Their Long Con
How did we get here? Consider this: out of everyone on the list of institutions above, who performs the worst by a wide margin? Politicians.
We readily see our politicians as stupid, incompetent, and corrupt. The problem is that they're smarter than we give them credit. To see why, let's review the long con they've been playing against the American public.
What politicians want most is to stay in power, despite their miserable performance. They've long understood it is the elites running teachers' unions, the media, and large corporations who really get them elected. For their part, these elites have long understood how to extract favors from Congress.
Powerful rent-seekers have allied their fortunes with "their" politicians who excel in doling out government largesse but are otherwise incompetent. This selfish symbiosis is not new.
What's changed is that politicians' malfeasance has sunk to such levels that it is getting harder to effectively mask.
Thus, the endless culture wars in which citizens are pitted against one another. The war of the sexes (women vs. men, and that I have to specify is a sign of the times) kept us distracted for a good several decades. Then we pivoted to fighting about gay marriage.
Once that was solved, we turned again to pitting whites against blacks, erasing decades of civil rights progress almost overnight.
Hiding incompetence by distraction has run amok
This formula got supercharged when social activists realized they could siphon off generous amounts of fundraising that previously would have gone to politicians.
You can make an excellent living now as a social warrior grifter. Anti-bias training anyone? Yet another book on why everything and everyone is racist?
Hence we see an accelerating number of topics fabricated or exaggerated to enflame bitter passions:
- The greedy rich don't pay their "fair share" of taxes.
- Toddlers are being groomed in schools by drag queens.
- Trans athletes are turning women's sports into a farce.
- We don't need to know anything about a person's skills or competence to determine their qualification for a position: their skin color, race, and sexual orientation are sufficient.
- First Amendment apologists want the government to censor speech that undermines the "consensus" narrative.
- Reproductive rights activists would give women the right to kill children up to the moment of birth, and maybe even some period afterward.
- Second Amendment fanatics turn a blind eye as children are mowed down with automatic weapons.
That you might fervently agree with how I formulated some of these and vehemently disagree with others demonstrates my point.
The Consequence: We're Not Just Distracted, We're Angry
To recap: greedy elites collaborate with corrupt politicians to their mutual benefit and the detriment of citizens. They do this by fanning the flames of false divisions to distract from their own incompetence.
Grifter activists are spoiling the party, however, by expanding the culture war battlegrounds too quickly. We're more divided than ever, to the point where our passions are counterproductive.
When a majority of Americans say members of the other party are unintelligent and lazy, that does not bode well. When 72% of us say we think members of the other party are more dishonest and immoral than other Americans, we're in trouble.
We're all being whipped up to dangerous levels of antipathy for our fellow citizens. When really, the scoundrels are not our neighbors but the politicians and other grifters who are fanning the flames.
The Answer: Don't Play Their Game ... At All
Cavalier corruption and carelessness about the fate of our nation are deeply entrenched. Getting "your side" back into power doesn't help when your side is just as harmful as the incompetents that lost power.
The answer is for us to no longer vote for either party
When members of both parties are actively working to destroy us (whether they intend it or not), the only sane choice is to decline to vote for either party.
This no-confidence signal will eventually lead to delegitimizing the entire corrupt and failing enterprise. It likely means a slow collapse of the current system, true. But what we're doing now is looking more and more likely to lead us to bloodshed and revolution.
But hey. If you can look at the survey data we've discussed and honestly say everything will be fine if only your party gets total control, you may have a career in politics.
Don't be surprised, though, when your opponents paint you as lazy, unintelligent, close-minded, dishonest, and immoral.
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