We Don’t Need Better Politicians, We Need a More Informed Electorate

congressThere’s not a day that goes by that I don’t read numerous comments from people complaining about how “all politicians are the same” or how “corrupt” our government is.

And on some levels, these people are right.  But they’re also blaming the wrong people.

See, we can complain all we want about how ineffective our government and politicians are, but at the end of the day we elected them.

No one in Congress got there without being voted in, and it’s often a voter’s cognitive dissonance about who they specifically voted for that creates this issue.

See, while Congress’s approval ratings are at historic lows, when you ask individual voters about the senators or representatives they voted for—the approval rating is often much higher.

Now I’m not saying these politicians always get high marks from their constituents.  But when Congress is hovering around the single-digits as far as overall approval rating, but individual politicians have a 40-50 percent approval rating in their own states or districts, that’s a huge jump in approval numbers.

Because like with many things we do in life, it’s not “my” senator or representative that’s causing problems—it’s yours.  

But at the end of the day, it’s our own avoidance of real information which continues to benefit these snake-oil salesmen politicians (mostly lawyers by the way) at the detriment of our country.

Now I’m not saying every politician who has a law degree is terrible.  I’m just saying it’s a little strange that Congress is mostly filled with lawyers, yet there aren’t a whole lot of scientists, doctors, teachers or financial experts.

I see it time and time again — people leaving comments on my Facebook page, Right Off A Cliff, or on my articles here at Forward Progressives based on information that’s simply not true.

I mean sure, some politician said it was true, but it’s not.

And this isn’t just a “Republican problem” or a “Democrat problem”—it transcends any one political party.

We want to be told what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.  For most voters, they already have their minds made up.  If they’re anti-war, nothing could convince them that we should get involved in Syria.  If they’re opposed to homosexuality, nothing can convince them that they deserve equal rights.

But by someone having these beliefs based on what they want to believe not what might be real, they completely dismiss their chance to be informed based on facts rather than political rhetoric.

And that’s the problem.  While we complain constantly about how horrible politicians are and how ineffective our government is, we continue to elect people who tell us what we want to hear instead of demanding that they prove they can do what they say.

It’s the, “I promise to create 12 million jobs in the next 4 years” statements that bring about a thunderous applause, with hardly anyone in the audience demanding that the politician explain how they came up with that number and the details behind how they plan to achieve that goal.

And politicians do this all the time.  I remember during the Republican primaries, just about every single candidate sat on stage and promised to “repeal Obamacare on day one!”

Which, of course, brought about a huge positive response from conservative voters.

Only one little problem—a president doesn’t have the power to unilaterally repeal laws.  And the worst part is, during these debates, not a single moderator (you know, the person who’s supposed to bring integrity to these things) called these politicians out for this blatant distortion of what the president has the power to do.

You have people who are now disappointed in President Obama because he didn’t fulfill every campaign promise and make all of their dreams come true.

Well, here’s some truth for those people to swallow: President Obama was lying to you.

Politicians have to lie because as much as we say we want the truth, we really don’t.

Sure, Obama meant much of what he said (and his track record proves it despite what many people think), but he clearly made a lot of promises based on “what sounds good for a candidate to say to energize voters,” without really knowing if it was anything he would be able to actually do once he assumed office.

So at the end of the day, when we elect every single person in Congress, who’s to blame?  Because these politicians are constantly using polls and studies to find out what they should say, how they should say it and what voters want to hear.

Then they get on stage and do just that—and many voters stand there blindly and cheer.  They cheer because they were just told exactly what they wanted to hear.

The truth is, our politicians and government will never improve until we improve as voters.  Until we decide to become more informed about facts rather than electing politicians that just tell us what we want to hear based on our preconceived (and often inaccurate) notions about facts, nothing within our government will really change.

Of course most people reading this article will dismiss it or not share it, because they don’t fall into this category.  They are informed.

But until we start being honest with ourselves about the big picture, how the hell can we expect politicians to care about anything other than soundbite politics?  How can we expect politicians to be honest with us about what they can truly achieve when all most of us seem to care about is hearing what we want to hear?  Until we start becoming more informed and truly hold politicians accountable, we should fully expect nothing to change.

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