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.

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  • lrc

    very true, But I feel that a good 40% of this country this is zero hope for. Things are only going to get worse. We cant force education on people. as long as money and special interests line the pockets of our politicians the lies they spit will just continue. You gotta figure that most people are too proud to admit they are ignorant. or they are unaware of their ignorance. My opnion is, this country is fucked, and things will just continue to get worse. especially since now we have a supreme court that is useless and contributing to the downfall.

    • rasslor56

      Depressing POV but can’t disagree.

    • rasslor56

      Depressing POV but can’t disagree.

  • Karla Ibsen

    One party in particular depends on the ignorance of voters. It is the same party that is hell bent on reducing investment in our educational infrastructure. Those politicians understand very well how they continue to be elected. They depend on the presence of low-information voters. This is not an unintended consequence!

    • Charles Vincent

      I didn’t think one could call out the democratic party here and get out alive like you just did.

      • Sythan

        I’m pretty sure she was talking about the Party of Legitimate Rape and Evolution being a lie straight from the pit of Hell.

      • Charles Vincent

        You missed my sarcasm :~)

      • Karla Ibsen

        Yes. Indeed, I was. Thank you.

      • Karla Ibsen

        Stop being a troll, please.

    • So, let me see if I get this. We liberals are hell-bent on reducing investment in our educational infrastructure. Maybe some are, maybe some aren’t. But what the f*ck does this have to do with the electorate, you freakin’ moron?

      • Karla Ibsen

        Now be nice. There’s no need for insults. I wasn’t referring to liberals. It’s the conservatives that are reducing educational investment. A history test for you: Which of the founding fathers said that “a properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate”? (Answer: Thomas Jefferson)

      • A history test for you: Who’s the troll here between the two of us? Hint: it’s not me.

      • Karla Ibsen

        Troll defined: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

        Who is trying to provoke others? It is not me doing the name-calling.

        I’m done with you.

      • Good, then my evil plan is working. Muwahahahaha. (/sarcasm).

  • Charles Vincent

    If by some miracle you had an informed electorate democrats wouldn’t get a vote ever again either and neither would progressives or liberals.

    • Betty Caron

      Now Charles, that was the dumbest statement on here. You must watch Glenn Beck and Fux News.

      • Charles Vincent

        Now Betty Name calling is unbecoming. Did you not get your nap today?
        C wut I did thar????????
        Caveat here is I was including republicans that do stupid things as well.

      • Pat

        Oh, I suppose this post of yours to Betty isn’t condescending. Whose the real hypocrite here, Charlie? Like I said above, look in the mirror. 🙂

      • Goober

        I do not understand why the Liberals are always attacking Fox when it has , on a regular basis , well over 40 million viewers. And MSNBC is having a hard time breaking 50,000.

      • Pat

        Goober, Goober, Goober: The truly ignorant, watch and believe Fox News. 40 million ignorant people voting is a really scary thought. Just check out some of the articles regarding the lies on Fox News, and maybe you will get a clue of just how they brainwash people.

      • Charles Vincent

        I can post articles on MSNBC and other liberal media show them lying as well it happens on both sides Pat.
        Two studies on gun violence one that Obama asked the CDC to do and one from Harvard completely debunk the stream of lies coming out of liberal media on guns and how gun control works.

      • Charles Vincent

        I can post articles on MSNBC and other liberal media show them lying as well it happens on both sides Pat.
        Two studies on gun violence one that Obama asked the CDC to do and one from Harvard completely debunk the stream of lies coming out of liberal media on guns and how gun control works.

      • Pat

        That is B.S., Charles. There are posts from comment threads with right wingers saying that MSNBC lies, and posts from Glenn Beck, nothing substantial, as opposed to what is out there on Fox News lying. You need to quit fooling yourself. Regarding gun control, which I never even brought up by the way, you seem obsessed with trying to prove that our laws in the U.S. regarding guns are just fine. I don’t care what Harvard’s gun violence study says. Any day in America, there are multiple gun deaths from the lack of gun laws in this country, and when lst graders have been shot in the face at an elementary school, and innocent people are shot in a movie theater, not to mention Gabby Giffords tragic shooting, etc., etc., etc., you will NEVER convince me that our gun laws are sufficient. I am just one of many Americans who want more gun control. That is fact!

      • Charles Vincent

        Gun control is lied about constantly by the left are you that myopic that you couldn’t tie that example to my statement that the left lies out their backside.

        ” Any day in America, there are multiple gun deaths from the lack of gun laws in this country,”

        A trend that has been going down for the past 25 years according to the FBI violent crime report.

        ” I don’t care what Harvard’s gun violence study says.”

        This is why you lose debates because you ignore facts that reputable educational institutions put out, and the CDC report that Obama ordered falls in line with the Harvard study.

        ” I am just one of many Americans who want more gun control. That is fact!”
        Great bury your head in the sand but don’t think you get toi dictate unconstitutional laws on the rest of us.

      • Pat

        Why are you so obsessed with gun laws, Charlie? Why are you on here constantly trying to talk down to anyone you think may be a left leaner? Why do you think you have to prove to everyone how right you are? I will tell you why, because you are very afraid of us. Us, who have gotten wise to all the B.S. people like you and Fox News try to tell people. Us, who re-elected Barack Obama instead of that has-been Mitt. Us, who know what is the ethically correct thing to do. So unlike you, and your right wing, narcissistic pals. I care, a lot, about kids in the classroom, and innocent people sitting in a theater, and about the struggling middle class. Why don’t you calm down and just accept that the obvious fact, (to everyone but you and your tea party friends), is that you right wing tea partiers are not what the majority wants. Sorry to have to break the bad news to you. Now get back to shining your guns, Charlie.

      • Charles Vincent

        “Why are you so obsessed with gun laws, Charlie?”

        It was an example of a left wing liberal lie sorry you don’t understand such a simple concept.

        “Why are you on here constantly trying to talk down to anyone you think may be a left leaner?”

        Not talking down you or anyone else but you refuse to see the facts of things as my example is clearly illustrating.

        “who re-elected Barack Obama instead of that has-been Mitt.”

        Yeah you voted him in by a relatively narrow margin as elections go. He lied to you and everyone else and you bought in to the lies not once but twice.

        ” So unlike you, and your right wing, narcissistic pals. I care, a lot, about kids in the classroom, and innocent people sitting in a theater, and about the struggling middle class. Why don’t you calm down and just accept that the obvious fact, (to everyone but you and your tea party friends), is that you right wing tea partiers are not what the majority wants.”

        Way to be a condescending, pontificating, bigoted hypocrite.

      • Pat

        LOL! I am none of those things, but you should take a look in the mirror Charlie. I am a truth-teller, and you are not. I think you need to give it up, trying to convince people on here of your clearly distorted view of how things really are in America today. Go join some tea party group where your comments may be well received. Us, who know better, are sick of your B.S.

        P.S. Sorry, Charlie, Barack Obama won our Presidential election, (twice for that matter). It is time to get over it and move on. Keep shining those guns! 🙂

      • Charles Vincent

        You said this;

        ” So unlike you, and your right wing, narcissistic pals. I care, a lot,
        about kids in the classroom, and innocent people sitting in a theater,
        and about the struggling middle class. Why don’t you calm down and just
        accept that the obvious fact, (to everyone but you and your tea party
        friends), is that you right wing tea partiers are not what the majority
        wants.”

        That statement of yours is exactly a representation of what I stated it was, you need that mirror more than I, I am afraid.

        ” I am a truth-teller” and ” I don’t care what Harvard’s gun violence study says.”

        You said those in an earlier post of yours, you don’t care about facts and defacto the truth that makes you a liar. the fact is you will lie about anything and you will excoriate anyone that doesn’t subscribe to your ideals.

      • Pat

        Once again I am LOL. A truth-teller certainly has a right to say they don’t care about some gun survey. I am not lying, I really don’t care about it, that is the truth. What is it about that statement that you don’t understand? Want to hear another truth? I don’t care what you say or think, either. You appear to be one messed up dude, who can’t handle the truth. I am done with you, for I will not waste another minute of my time on people like you. I think you need to get off of “Forward Progressives”, for you are truly not one of us. Go watch some Fox News, or listen to Rush, or Sarah, or Michelle, while you polish your guns. They are just like you, and that is one crowd I would not want to be part of! Bye-bye now, Charlie.

      • Charles Vincent

        ” I am done with you, for I will not waste another minute of my time on
        people like you. I think you need to get off of “Forward Progressives”,
        for you are truly not one of us”
        Not one of you… that’s laughable.
        Nope I will continue to post here so get used to it. Facts are the truth and you seem to be ambivalent to them so keep living in that fantasy where facts are a lie and your opinions are gospel, and all you need to do is ignore people or insult them or marginalize them to refute their arguments or ideologies when they run contrary to yours.

      • pamelina

        Show me any examples of so-called “liberal” media lying? Just because you think it’s happening doesn’t make it true.

        As Conservative comedian Steven Colbert jokes, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

        Shouldn’t we at least hold Fox and media members to the same standards of unbiased truthfulness that we want from politicians?

      • Charles Vincent

        This is a post of mine several posts up I guess you missed it. Also look at any gun control lobby and then match their numbers with real data from say the FBI crime statistics. This is one example I could go on but this post is too long already.

        Gun control is lied about constantly by the left are you that myopic that you couldn’t tie that example to my statement that the left lies out their backside.

        ” Any day in America, there are multiple gun deaths from the lack of gun laws in this country,”

        A trend that has been going down for the past 25 years according to the FBI violent crime report.

        ” I don’t care what Harvard’s gun violence study says.”

        This is why you lose debates because you ignore facts that reputable educational institutions put out, and the CDC report that Obama ordered
        falls in line with the Harvard study.

        ” I am just one of many Americans who want more gun control. That is fact!”
        Great bury your head in the sand but don’t think you get to dictate unconstitutional laws on the rest of us.

  • Pipercat

    The big picture is, the revolving door in front of the official’s office lobby. As long as K street has a more access to our representatives than the constituents do, nothing will change; informed or not. The lobbyists controls those who are elected by loosening the strings of the campaign purse. Supplemented by 3rd party cash, things then become more complicated. I guess if folks would inform themselves on who gets what loot from whom, the rest will attend to itself…

  • Nattxn

    It is a shame that we let the ignorant vote, there should be a civics test to get your voter card.

    • Goober

      No one under 35 years of age would pass a civics test because they don;t know what it is.

      • Sam Brosenberg

        I don’t think it has that much to do with age. 90% of Americans would fail the test for American Citizenship and 70% of them would fail a basic 8th grade level civics test. My generation is bad, but we’re not the SOURCE of this dumbing down of american culture.

      • JamieHaman

        Good points. Wish you had mentioned basic math tests for both politicians, and the voters. I want them to pass a math test with interest rate and percentage word problems.

  • Betty Caron

    The wealth disparity hasn’t been this great since the 1920’s when the Robber Barons ran the Coal, Railroads, and Utilities. Banks were large and unprincipled and bribery of officials and corruption was rampant. Does this remind you of today? The unions battled for a decent wage, 8 hour work days, children worked in the sweatshops and mines, and textile mills. The police were paid off and brutal to the workers and strikers. We have not learned from history. Again the bankers, corporations, and wealthy are trying to control labor, break the unions, and consolidate wealth to the top and bribe our Supreme Court, Senators, and Representatives to vote in ways that make a mockery of our Democracy.

    • Charles Vincent

      That disparity is a direct result of government intervention in the free market via corporate subsidies to corporations for campaign finance which has distorted the free market into a corporate cronyism monstrosity.
      John D rockefeller was a pauper and made his money from being a smart business man and so did Henry Ford. the rober baron myth is tired and has been proven false. Rockefeller was also a philanthopist and the price for his product went dont which benifited the consumer as did fords product.

      • JamieHaman

        Ford paid his employees more for two reasons, one to lower employee turnover, and two so they could also purchase his products. Both of which increased his bottom line.
        Doubling workers daily wages also brought him better employees from elsewhere.

      • Charles Vincent

        Yep I know that but that wasn’t the point I was making. which is also why I didn’t mention all the social restrictions he placed on that wage as a contingency because it wasn’t relevant to my point

      • pamelina

        Robber barons are a tired myth that “has been proven false?” Nonsense. Look at WalMart, Koch Industries, Goldman Sachs, etc… There will always be exceptions to the general rule, like Henry Ford and Google, but the only question you need to ask is: Are their business practices decreasing economic inequality, or are they making it worse? Is opportunity and social mobility increasing, or are we descending into economic slavery under a wealthy international elite? Do you want to bet the quality of your society on the aristocratic benevolence of the wealthy, like Bill Gates, David Koch, and Warren Buffet, or on democratic government?

        Debt forges stronger chains than iron does.

      • Charles Vincent

        You missed the context of my post Pam.

        “Look at WalMart, Koch Industries, Goldman Sachs, etc…”

        These are examples of government intervention in the market and are associated with the corporate welfare bailouts of to big to fail banks and companies and it was all set off by the Citizens united supreme court decision to grant person hood to corporations. HMM lets talk about debt Your boy Obama has ballooned the debt by 6.5 trilling dollars in 4.5 years don’t believe me well here is a very well known and respected MIT professor telling you its not a market failure its government and big business collusion that are causing the problem;

        http://www DOT youtube DOT com/watch?v=63HNuL2tfNc

      • JamieHaman

        I must not understand what you are saying here Charles Vincent, is it that Walmart got a Bail out, or Koch Industries did? Don’t remember seeing either of these getting bail out money. I do know that Walmart’s costs taxpayers about $900,000 a year because they socialize the cost of doing business, and privatize the profits.
        As far as our boy Obama ballooning the debt, just in case you hadn’t noticed that has gone down. And of course you do know that it was that lunatic george that tanked the economy.

      • Charles Vincent

        Here is a list of corporate receivers of TARP;

        http://projects DOT propublica DOT org/bailout/list

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see something on that list owned by those you mentioned.

        “As far as our boy Obama ballooning the debt, just in case you hadn’t noticed that has gone down.”

        You’re confusing debt with deficit. Obama has created ~6.5 trillion dollars in debt in ~4.5 years, Bush created ~4 trillion in 8 years(not excusing this just as a comparison). yes deficit is going down at present under Obama but the CBO confirms that this is just temporary;

        http://www DOT cbo DOT gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/2011-03-18 APB-FederalDebt_0 DOT pdf

        This link shows the CBO long term analysis of Obama’s Budget you can see the dip in yearly deficits but you can also see they are short lived and go back up. Currently Obama is on track to add 10 trillion dollars to the national debt by the end of his presidency in 2016.

        “And of course you do know that it was that lunatic george that tanked the economy.”

        This wasn’t gorge bushes fault entirely the housing bubble burst due to congressional and financial issues resulting form policies from congress.

      • JamieHaman

        See, I didn’t understand what you meant, thanks for clarifying.
        No, it really never is the actual president’s fault, but we use his name as the ‘person claiming to be in charge.’ But you knew that.

      • Charles Vincent

        Yes, and why it’s so absurd for people on either side to blame Bush or Clinton or Reagan or Obama specially rears after they were in office. Its a combination of lots of factors, but inevitably its the presidents watch and he is ultimately responsible for the stuff happening during his tenure in office.

    • Charles Vincent

      That disparity is a direct result of government intervention in the free market via corporate subsidies to corporations for campaign finance which has distorted the free market into a corporate cronyism monstrosity.
      John D rockefeller was a pauper and made his money from being a smart business man and so did Henry Ford. the rober baron myth is tired and has been proven false. Rockefeller was also a philanthopist and the price for his product went dont which benifited the consumer as did fords product.

  • Goober

    Our students are not taught basics. No basic American History, no Basic Mathematics, no Basic Science. Those skills are necessary to move through society. When did our education system decide that children did not need to learn how to spell or do basic math? As a parent, I certainly did not encourage this lack of education but when I took it upon myself to teach my own kids these things, their teachers were shocked that I would take it upon myself to teach them “useless” subjects. USELESS?????? When is there a time when you don’t need to know some basic math and reading and writing??

  • Bobbie Johnson

    ” 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.” Their job is to moderate, not debate.

    • pamelina

      If the politicians knew the debate moderators would call them on blatant lies and misleading comments, then they would stop making so many of them. It would do a great deal of good. That’s what you need a good moderator to do, otherwise you could just a timer to the microphones.

  • david Larson

    Draft Allen Clifton for Senate, people.

  • Tommy Chamberlain

    The intentional dumbing down and cutbacks to our educational system are really starting to show. Just look at freshman members of congress.

  • Andrew James

    I’ve made it a point to vote according to their vote records and how long they have been in. On a state level this last cycle I refused to vote for any incumbent. And I will no longer vote for any Congressperson who has served 12 years. The saying “Politicians are like diapers, they need to be changed often and for the same reason,” goes a long way. Often times the road to hell is paved with good intentions. When they get in there for one reason or another they fail.

    • pamelina

      Why do you want to vote for new candidates? Do you believe new always mean better, and incumbent always means corrupt? There are some good politicians: Senator Bernie Sanders of VT, my MA Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Alan Grayson of FL. Throwing them out of office would be a bad thing, don’t you think? If we held our politicians accountable for what they do, that would go a longer way toward fixing corruption than cycling through new candidates.

      • JamieHaman

        I live in Texas myself. Ted Cruz is new and no, I didn’t vote for him either. Right now, I don’t think Texas has 10 good politicians.

  • Common sense

    I agree with you Allen except for one thing. The problem is the candidates we get to choose from. We get the same tired, lying, corrupt people in a different skin. How do we promote quality candidates? It seems only millionaires can afford to have a campaign.

  • JamieHaman

    We want to be told what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. That says it all. I am sick and tired of people who refuse to use a dictionary to find out what a word means. Sick and tired of people who refuse to understand how insurance actually works.
    Sick and tired of willful ignorance. Of my opinion matters as much as your fact. I know my idiot congressman in the House of Representatives stands for just about everything I oppose.