I’ve Got a Message for Everyone Who’s Sick and Tired of Our Current Government

congress-approvalI tend to view myself as a practical person. I try not to let emotion cloud my judgment and I usually try to see the “bigger picture.” I’m also a big fan of facts over ideological rhetoric. By that I mean, I care about facts over what I want to be real. Far too often I encounter people who care more about what they want to be real rather than what is real. It’s a phenomenon that’s found on both the left and the right.

Well, lately I’ve hit my limit with all this talk about “2016 is the year voters want an outsider, someone who’s not part of the establishment” and that people are “sick and tired of the government working for special interests, not the people.” After all, that’s a lot of the rhetoric driving both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Two politicians who couldn’t be more different but, ironically, are using some of the same “we must put an end to the status quo/to hell with the establishment” messages.

Is our government efficient? Not really. Does our government need a lot of changes? Yes. Do we need to get money out of politics? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Except the truth is, people have complained about government since the very first politician. I recently re-watched Ann Richards’ speech from the 1988 Democratic convention (if you’ve never watched it, it’s a must-see) and it’s amazing how, 28 years ago, she was saying many of the same complaints about jobs, the economy and the government that people are saying today. People act as if these are new complaints – they’re not. While the debate has changed some, you can go back decades and find essentially the same sort of rhetoric being uttered by both sides.

But with the rise of social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle, revenue-driven media is all the craze. Nowadays it’s about pushing negativity, fear and stories that get people worked up. Because those stories are what sell the best.

Though when it comes to our government, why are we really whining and complaining? We elected these people.

Oh, I know: Money in politics is buying our government! 

Really? Did money make people vote for these politicians? Did money declare them the winner?

No – votes did. Votes from American citizens who went to various polling locations around the country and exercised their right to vote for the candidate they support. Nobody forced them to vote for a particular person… they did it of their own free will.

Even more importantly than the votes that were cast, are the votes that weren’t.

Aside from presidential years when voter turnout tends to be higher, the rate at which Americans vote is typically bad. In midterms it’s much lower than during presidential elections and for local elections it’s practically non-existent. Which is even more frustrating because local elections have just as, if not more, impact on our day-to-day lives than national ones.

It’s why I haven’t particularly bought into the Bernie Sanders “political revolution” rhetoric. Were people not angry in 2010? 2012? Heck, were they not angry 15 months ago when voter turnout was at its lowest level in decades? You know, when Republicans absolutely crushed Democrats practically everywhere.

Now I know what some will say to that: Voter turnout was low because people are disillusioned with government and feel nothing will change. Now they have a voice for that change!


By that “logic,” you’re telling me that the “solution” when you’re dissatisfied with government is to not vote in better politicians? Again, these people don’t magically get anointed to office. They’re elected by us. Every single election – every single one – we have it within our power to elect better politicians to make our government better… but we usually don’t.

Words cannot express how frustrated I get when people say President Obama hasn’t done enough. What did these people expect him to do when many of those voters who were so excited in 2008 let Republicans take back control of the House in 2010 because they apparently had better things to do? What did they expect him to do last year after we let Republicans take back the majority in the Senate to claim both houses of Congress? But we want to blame him for not getting enough accomplished because, as voters, many of us let him down?

Again, the government is only as good as the politicians we elect to run it.

Even now with the Bernie Sanders craze his main selling point has been “we’ll bring people to the polls to create a political revolution for change.” Well, that’s not what’s happening. Voter turnout for Iowa and New Hampshire was lower for Democrats than in 2008. In fact, Republicans turned out in higher numbers in both states.

But the truth is, we’ve already seen this before. In 2008, the big movement then was the youth vote and how Barack Obama was appealing to the anger among young people which was going to propel his presidency to accomplish a sweeping overhaul of everything we’ve known about government. You know, “hope and change.”

Well, once the excitement wore off, the realities of government set in and he didn’t wave his magic want to make all of their hopes and dreams come true… they turned on him. Sure, the logical thing would have been to turnout in 2010 in historic numbers to give him a Congress that would have passed everything he wanted to do. But as we all know, that’s not what happened.

American voters are almost like our own Greek tragedy. We sit here and talk about how awful our government is, how much we want to see change and all this really great rhetoric… but we never see it through. We are literally the cause of our own problems. The power to bring about the change we want is ours for the taking. Unfortunately, our political memories and attention spans seem to last all of about six months.

Hell, our congressional approval rating is abysmal – yet re-election rates are over ninety percent. And that’s not because of “money in politics” – it’s because we elected them. Well, more truthfully, because we didn’t show up to elect someone better.

So, while we continue to talk about how terrible our government is and complain, as we always do, about how we’re sick and tired of the “status quo,” just remember – we created the status quo.

If we want better politicians, it starts by voters picking better candidates during the primaries to run during the general election and making damn sure we show up in large numbers to see that they win.

And until we start doing that – during every single election – we really only have ourselves to blame for the government we elected either by our vote or because we chose not to vote.

Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you think.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Dorothy R. Kendrick

    Allen, you are absolutely spot. Thank you for your most insightful essay.

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  • reciprocalhokie

    Money bought the politicians that the establishments on both sides brought to us to vote for looooong before we had a chance to vote for them. Saying we deserve who we vote for is disingenuous at best, we can only vote for who the establishment presents to us. In almost every case, principled politicians have been weeded out at the local and state levels.

    • anastasjoy

      Bunk. On a local level you have a LOT of say, and it’s a cop-out to say your candidates are picked by “the establishment.” Do you even know who “the establishment” is on your local level? Did you know how easily it can be you? Because it can. Run for precinct captain.

      • Actually, I have had quite an active role in local elections. I have yet to back a winner. Even at the local level, money talks. In a town where the median income is $32,000, every member of the city council has a six figure plus income. Hardly representative of the constituents.

  • anastasjoy

    Precisely right. A Bernie Sanders presidency would fail to deliver on virtually everything he has promised, because his voters were sitting around waiting for someone like him and didn’t turn out on 2010 — the election redistricting hinged on — or 2014. And many of them would most likely think they have done their job in turning out to vote for him, and when he failed to deliver, would not turn out in 2018 to give him people who would back him. I am tired of listening to “It doesn’t make a difference” or “No candidates inspire us.” The Republicans win because they are not waiting to be inspired. They have an agenda and they want to see it enacted.

  • BobJThompson

    I have little hope that the despondency/apathy of the American public will ever abate. Well aside from getting fired up for the presidential general election vote every 4 years. Not only is it pathetic how many people don’t care to get involved in the primary process for presidents, it’s abysmal for any race lower than that.

    Even if you hate what government does, their choices can impact your life. You give up what little power you have when you choose to not use it.