Toss all the bums out.
This is the simple solution for a government that doesn’t appear to be working. This solution, though, is based on the assumption that those elected to take their place will do a better job.
My view is that the ideological divide that we see preventing progress in our government accurately represents the deep divisions in the voting population.
When the tea partiers, for example, say toss out all incumbents, they aren’t expecting them to be replaced by new liberal Democrats. What they are really saying is replace them all with people who support the Tea Party agenda. Republicans are definitely saying toss out all of the Democrats so that the Republicans can regain control. Democrats counter that suggestion by asking if voters really want reward Republican obstructionism by returning them to power.
So the “toss the bums out” chant isn’t really what it seems. It is just a simple expression of hope that things would run better if everyone were in the same page.
It’s probably true, but in simplest terms, that’s not going to happen.
Government has been less effective because it has become more representative. It has become more representative because it has become more ideological. As it becomes more ideological, it becomes less open to compromise. As it becomes less open to compromise, it becomes less effective.
As government becomes less effective, it seems to fan the flames of polarization. Everyone is looking for someone else to blame. The easiest and most obvious target is anyone who has an opposing philosophy. The self-righteous blame sinners. The sinners claim they are not guilty. The not-guilty have to prove that they are innocent. The innocent get punished. The unfairly punished cry for help. The self-righteous ignore cries for help because they feel punishment is the best method to teach people to make better choices. The media mobsters gleefully stir the pot and are rewarded handsomely for their rabble rousing.
As the ideological differences increase, the fabric of our democracy begins to fray. We become more interested in our own ideals than the welfare of our neighbors. We lose the common decency that is the hallmark of our towns and cities. We justify our hard-heartedness by pointing out the shortcomings of those we disagree with. We trust only the like-minded. We value those that we agree with and discount those that disagree with us. We reward demagoguery and punish the peacemakers.
This is not new news.
This has been happening since humans discovered there was strength in numbers.
Jesus recognized the problem and gave us direction on how to overcome it in His Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matt 5:9
As is usually the case, the way to change the world is to change yourself. As we can all attest, this is much easier said than done.