There is substantial agreement across constituencies that America’s political system is broken. That’s where the agreement ends; who you blame for the dysfunction will depend upon your political orientation and the source and degree of your disgust.
Wherever your finger is pointing, it is becoming increasingly clear that the toxic nature of our politics is threatening to turn off the young people who will be needed if we are ever to improve the system.
A couple of professors recently shared some troubling data in the Washington Post: high school students they had surveyed would rather do anything other than become involved in politics. They don’t want to run for office. They don’t want to be Mayors or Councilors or Governors. Serving as a Member of Congress was their dead-last occupational choice.
As the professors wrote, the fact that they do not want to run for office
“cannot be divorced from their perceptions of the political system. Eighty-five percent of our survey respondents did not think that elected officials want to help people; 79 percent did not consider politicians smart or hard-working; nearly 60 percent believed politicians are dishonest; and fewer than 30 percent said they thought candidates and elected leaders stand up for their convictions.”
There are more than 500,000 elected positions in the U.S. Given the attitudes of these young people, we can only imagine who will run to fill those positions.
As the writers concluded, it’s easy to blame young people for a lack of civic engagement, but this time, “the fault lies with a political system and political figures whose behavior has turned off an entire generation.”