Weekly Opinion Editorial
MISFIRES IN 2023!
by Steve Fair
2023 has been a challenging year, especially in politics. In a Wall Street Journal article, Republican pollster White Ayres described 2023 as a terrible year for America’s political system. “The dysfunction and misfires were long and on occasion embarrassing,” Ayres claims.
From the GOP Speaker of the House train wreck to the Biden administration’s clumsy handling of the Gaza strip, 2023 has not been a banner year for competence, proficiency, and expertise. Elected officials’ performance has affected how Americans view their government. In a September 2023 poll, Pew Research found 65% of Americans are ‘exhausted’ when they think about politics. Just 4% say the political system is working and only 16% trust the federal government. Trust and respect for the American political system is at an all time low. Three observations:
First, money controls politics. Wealthy donors dominate political campaigns at all levels of politics- from the White House to the outhouse. The growth of super PACs and dark money PACs allow billionaires to pour unlimited amounts of money anonymously into races. Attempts to remove the anonymity of donors is met with little success because those benefiting from the invisibility of dark money donors are the ones charged with changing it. Some advocate campaign finance reform and public financing of campaigns. But those proposals are un-American and limit individual freedom and liberty.
The growth of money in politics allows special interest groups, trade associations, and rich people to ‘buy’ an elective office. The windfall has led to an explosion in the number of political consultants who craft a message, knock off the rough edges and define a candidate. Like consumer products companies market a product, the features, advantages, and benefits (FABs) of a candidate are highlighted. Componence, proficiency, and ability are trumped for marketability.
Second, grey hairs have to lead. The older generation must take the front. A September Gallup poll showed Generation Z (ages 7-22) have little knowledge or respect for major U.S. institutions, like the government or the police. Some of that is due to the decline in civics training in the public schools, but few KIDS get training at home.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts wrote, “Each generation has an obligation to pass on to the next, not only a fully functioning government responsive to the needs of the people, but the tools to understand and improve it.” Sadly, most baby boomers (ages 59-77) paid little attention to politics and their government for most of their life. Some BBs have ‘awakened’ from their long slumber, and become politically engaged, but instead of recognizing real change is incremental, they demand immediate reform and are largely ignored by elected officials. Their bellowing becomes like sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, changing nothing.
Third, America is electing the wrong people. For years, self-promoting, career politicians were blamed for America’s problems. But the average length of service for U.S. House members is now just 9 years (4.5 terms) and U.S. Senate members 11 years (less than 2 terms). Career politicians are not the problem. It is elected officials representing a small constituency focused on a sole issue. The new breed of elected official- at state and federal level- lack a multifaceted, well-rounded background. Many are a ‘one trick pony,’ skilled and knowledgeable in only one area. They reject conciliation and negotiation as a means to govern. They are willing to settle for nothing instead of something. That is not representation of a broad constituency- that is aloofness and impassiveness. The fruit of which is contention, conflict, and polarization.
What type of candidate does America need to elect? Moses was advised by his father-in-law in Exodus 18:31 to seek out for leadership those with five attributes: (1) capable, (2) truthful, (3) not covetous, (4) fear God, (5) selfless. Until America looks for those candidates, it will be more of the same dysfunction and misfires in 2024.