But if there’s an upside to the increasing unhappiness that most Americans feel toward the political class, it’s that maybe it means people are paying closer attention.
Americans are out of sorts, and increasingly they’re unhappy with the government. According to a Pew poll released last week, more than half of Americans view government as a threat to their freedom.
And it’s not just Republicans unhappy with Obama, or gun owners afraid that the government will take their guns: 38% of Democrats, and 45% of non-gun owners, see the government as a threat.
Add this to another recent poll in which only 22% of likely voters feel America’s government has the “consent of the governed,” and you’ve got a pretty depressing picture — and a recipe for potential trouble. Governments operate, to a degree, by force, but ultimately they depend on legitimacy. A government that a majority views as a threat, and that only a small minority sees as enjoying the consent of the governed, is a government with legitimacy problems.
There are two possible ways to address this problem. One is to elect people that everyone trusts. The problem with that is that there aren’t any politicians that everyone trusts — and, alas, if there were, the odds are good that such trust would turn out to be misplaced.
The other option is to place less power within the political sphere. The less power the government has, the less incentive for corruption, and the less that can go wrong when the government misbehaves. The problem with this approach is that the political class likes a powerful government — it’s one of the reasons that the Washington, DC, area, where much of the political class lives, is beginning to resemble the Capital City in The Hunger Games, prospering while the rest of the country suffers.
The political class usually gets its way, because it thinks about politics — and its own position — every waking moment, while the rest of America thinks about these things only in fits and starts, in between living everyday life. But if there’s an upside to the increasing unhappiness that most Americans feel toward the political class, it’s that maybe it means people are paying closer attention.
I love Glenn’s reference to The Hunger Games. I had the same thoughts, and others, after finally viewing the movie.