If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then American voters are playing a full symphony amid their political system’s ongoing meltdown. Remarkably, voter concern appears to be waning as the system designed to protect their rights and promote prosperity increasingly fails.
Where is the outrage? There are countless reasons for Americans to be angry, yet voter complacency prevails.
A recent CNN/ORC International poll notes that 44 percent of registered voters indicated they were financially worse off today than four years ago. Only 37 percent indicated their financial situation was better. Yet despite multiple major political issues at stake and high discontent, American voters proved remarkably blasé in November’s national elections. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that eligible voter turnout in November dropped from 62.3 percent in 2008 to around 57.5 in 2012.
For the most part, only tea party members displayed real anger during the past election cycle. Consequently, they were labeled as lunatic, fanatic and fascist by the media and their political opponents. What would tea party opponents have thought about our colonial forebearers who rebelled against English tyranny? Have Americans so lost touch with history? Absolutely!
In August, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled, “The Real Reason America’s Schools Stink.” It states that a recent evaluation conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment, an organization that tests students around the world, indicated “the U.S. ranks behind 16 other economies including Poland, Estonia and South Korea in terms of student literacy.”
Additional indicators show American public schools lagging behind most other industrialized nations. Meanwhile, American businesses bring in foreign workers to fill jobs in science, math and technology because there aren’t enough qualified Americans.
Studies have shown many voters who are strong supporters of one party or another can’t explain the reason for their support – they vote gut feeling or family tradition, not reason. Dare we call them ignorant?
Despite being re-elected, President Obama’s 2013 approval ratings so far average only 48 percent, according to a Gallup poll. Congress began 2013 with a dismal 14 percent approval rating. In spite of this, only two incumbent senators and 22 representatives were defeated in November. It’s difficult to understand why incumbents are overwhelmingly re-elected when more than half of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Many Americans today, especially younger adults, lack the grit and determination displayed by previous generations. Towns across the nation raised entire regiments of soldiers to support their side during the Civil War. During both world wars, scores of young Americans rushed to volunteer for military service.
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, young Americans again lined up to volunteer their service. Look at the state of the U.S. military only a decade later. The Pentagon recently reported 339 military suicides in 2012, more than the total combat-related deaths. Does the American public care? If the paucity of media coverage of this travesty is any indication, then the answer is no.
Voters handed Obama a second term despite his failure to deliver on an election promise to quickly end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The last American forces withdrew from Iraq during the final days of his first term.
The 11-plus-year war in Afghanistan continues. Waging perpetual war is how Capitol Hill rewards the enthusiasm of young patriots who volunteered for military service. Despite widespread bipartisan outcry against the war, voters gave Obama a free pass.
Americans value human rights and justice, yet the country’s policies continue to promote trade with Communist China, a fanatical human rights abuser and a country that is draining America economically. While the trade imbalance with China has been the subject of substantial discussion in the media and political circles, it fails to resonate as a major political issue.
Americans cry for jobs, yet the official unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent for more than four years. Despite designating unemployment a top priority, Obama has not convened his jobs council in over a year.
Where is the voter outrage?
America’s national debt grew by an astonishing $5 trillion over the past four years, yet social issues such as health care and gay marriage seem to dominate political discourse, not out-of-control government spending or the economy. It is becoming increasingly difficult for recent college graduates to find good jobs. Despite the bleak economic outlook for our children and grandchildren, complacency prevails among American voters.
The Great Depression helped shape the worldview of the “Greatest Generation,” those who fought and won World War II. The poverty and suffering inflicted on so many by the depression left an indelible mark on their souls and a toughness that remains to this day for those still living.
Sometimes humans have to be driven to their knees before they can stand up, dust themselves off and move forward with their lives. Today, too many Americans have been driven to their knees by the failings of a political system that no longer represents their best interests. Hopefully the voters can find the collective will to stand up and fight before the American system totally melts down.
Martin Luther King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” King’s words still ring true. It’s time for American voters to start showing their political masters their real power.
Zachary Hubbard is a freelance writer residing in the Greater Pittsburgh area.