Recent polling by veteran survey researcher Stan Greenberg has confirmed some conventional wisdom, albeit from a somewhat different angle.
Unsurprisingly, Greenberg found that a large majority of Americans support popular social programs like Social Security, Medicare and even the Affordable Care Act.
An equally predictable finding: a majority of us view government with a significant amount of distrust.
Greenberg concludes that it isn’t enough for proponents of social programs (mostly Democrats these days, although the partisan divide wasn’t always so sharp) to center their candidacies around their support for these programs; they also need to emphasize a commitment to specific government reforms.
Reform of government, then, means more than just getting money out: It should involve specific, plausible reforms that would reengage citizens in the process of government, creating new ways to make all our voices matter….
Above all, it should include a positive vision of reform of the political process, and the role of money, that does more than reimpose limits on the political influence of the very wealthy, but empowers citizens as donors and participants. And, the most difficult challenge of all, there has to be an effort to restore to the public face of government, the legislative process, a sense of compromise and shared commitment to the public good, despite deep disagreements.
All of this should fit into the context of a reaffirmation of the importance of government, not as a force outside of our lives, for good or ill, but as an expression of our shared aspirations.
“Government as an expression of our shared aspirations.” That sentence struck me. How long has it been since the voting public viewed their government as a mechanism for achieving our common goals and aspirations?
The fact that such rhetoric sounds quaint, if not odd, to contemporary ears is a measure of how impoverished our political discourse has become.