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Americans have had it with our broken, dysfunctional political system


Americans have had it with our broken, dysfunctional political system

Sep 29, 2023 | 6:18 am ET
By George Ochenski
Americans have had it with our broken, dysfunctional political system
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 26, 2023 amid talks of a government shutdown (Photo by Jennifer Shutt of States Newsroom).

The nation and its 335 million citizens are facing a federal government shutdown due to the inability of Congress to govern.

But if politicians think the people support their endless bickering and inability to do their job, they best check a new poll from the Pew Research Center with shocking results that show Americans have had it with the dysfunctional two-party system.

It’s hard to overstate what Pew found when it asked some very straightforward questions such as “is the political system working?” of about 14,000 adults.

Only 4% said “the system is working extremely well or very well” while a whopping 63% “express not too much or no confidence at all in the future of the U.S. political system” and only 16% say “they trust the federal government always or most of the time” — a historic low.

Tellingly, 28% “express unfavorable views of both parties” — while in Pew’s 1994 poll only 6% held that negative view of the two-party system. And again, that’s reflected in the finding that 25% “do not feel well-represented by either party.”

It’s not surprising, either, when the respondents said they were “dissatisfied with the candidates who have emerged so far” in the presidential campaign. Why wouldn’t they be? We have two very old white guys, both of whom make continuous blunders while speaking that suggest senility, have difficulties with normal activities like walking, and can’t seem to remember who said what, when, or why.
Even politicians are “underwhelmed” by the potential choice of Biden or Trump. As one Republican senator wrote me recently: “The whole of the political discussion is Biden this and Trump that. Both are bulls–t on steroids but to call ‘them’ on it is considered disloyalty to the party, as is pointing out that ‘judicial activism’ is often just ‘legislative activism’ being called out.”

But the Trump-Biden dissatisfaction doesn’t stop there. Pew found that “just 26%” rate the quality of all current political candidates as “very or somewhat good, down about 20 points since 2018.”

Sixty-five percent say they’re always/often “exhausted when thinking about politics these days” with 55% saying they’re “angry.” As for “hopeful”? Fifty-six percent say they’re “rarely/never” hopeful and a whopping 78% say they’re “rarely/never excited” about our political situation. It’s no wonder our young people are suffering high levels of mental anguish considering the future they’re facing.

When asked to “describe in their own words their feelings about the political system and elected officials,” 79% used “negative or critical words, with ‘divisive’ and ‘corrupt’ coming up most frequently.”

While the ugly Republican-versus-Democrats theater goes on endlessly like a name-calling fight on an elementary school playground, Pew found: “More than eight in ten Americans (86%) say the following is a good description of politics: ‘Republicans and Democrats are more focused on fighting each other than on solving problems.’”

That seems to back up why 40% of the general public now identify as “independents” instead of the 30% who say they’re Republicans or the 30% who say they’re Democrats.

These are big numbers and should be flashing red lights for our two-party system — especially as politicians like Montana’s Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale and the “Freedom Caucus” are more than happy to shut down the government unless they get their extremist and uncompromising way with essential legislation.
Unlike so many politicians, the numbers don’t lie. The U.S. is facing a political crisis. And while the two major parties can ignore it and continue to bash each other, one thing is all too obvious —  the American public has had it with the broken, dysfunctional two-party system.
George Ochenski is a longtime Helena resident, an environmental activist and Montana’s longest-running columnist.