Well, At Least I’m Consistent….

Back in 2012, when I was still teaching, I published an essay in an academic journal. I recently came across it, and realized that–as the midterms approach and the GOP departs further from reality–it’s more applicable than ever, so I’m sharing it.

I titled it The Great Disconnect.

As another election season comes to a close, one lesson is abundantly clear: there is a huge disconnect between the skill sets public offices require and the sales pitches candidates are making.

Campaigns are job applications and the candidates are applicants. We voters are the folks doing the hiring. In order to make informed “hires,” we need to know two things: what competencies the job requires, and which of the “applicants” come equipped with the requisite skills as well as our preferred policy positions.

Is this election for mayor, governor or president? We need someone who understands the relevant administrative structure, who is able to assess and recruit knowledgeable technocrats and aides, who has a good grasp of economic and budgetary issues, tax policies, intergovernmental relations and the mechanics of service delivery. It is highly desirable that the applicant be aware of the competing needs and desires of the diverse constituencies to be served and have an ability to communicate with representatives of those constituencies.

Is this an election to fill a legislative seat? In addition to the skills listed above, a policy background is highly desirable—as is a demonstrated ability to work in a bipartisan way with other legislators and members of the executive branch.

If democratic processes are going to produce satisfactory results, voters need information that allows them to match the qualifications of the candidates to the requirements of the position. Unfortunately, it is impossible to sit through the avalanche of misleading 30-second spots, scurrilous Internet postings or negative direct-mail pieces that flood our in-boxes and snail-mail boxes and not conclude that the task is impossible, and that the American electoral process is badly broken.

There is no dearth of theories about what ails us: too much money, too much rigid ideology, too much partisanship, too many lobbyists, too many pundits and too few real reporters….the list is extensive, and all of the items on that list undoubtedly contribute to the sorry state of today’s politics. But these things would matter less if the electorate were better informed.

Let me just offer a couple of all-too-typical examples. In my state, a Senate candidate is currently airing a spot blasting his opponent—a sitting Congressman—for voting to raise the debt ceiling. This political attack depends for its effectiveness on public ignorance of the difference between a vote to raise the debt ceiling and a vote to add to the national debt. Large bipartisan majorities have raised the ceiling without controversy for many years, because members of both parties have understood that difference.

The national debt is a real problem. Reasonable people can disagree about the mix of “revenue enhancements” (aka taxes) and spending cuts needed to address that problem, how much stimulus is needed to get the economy moving again, and what programs might be cut without harming our still-tenuous recovery from the Great Recession. But only someone with absolutely no understanding of the economic system advocates a reckless act that would make it impossible for the U.S. Government to pay its bills—and only an uninformed voter would respond positively to such advocacy.

A more typical political attack is some variation on the theme that “Congressman X has been in Washington for Y years, but we still have problem Z.” No one who understands checks and balances and the limits on what any individual member of Congress can accomplish is going to take such a charge seriously. The fact that a political candidate believes this to be an effective argument tells us a lot about that candidate’s respect for the intelligence of the average voter.

There is another possibility, of course. It may be that these appeals are not simply cynical ploys based upon perceived public ignorance. It may be that the people who are running for office actually believe their own arguments. In several races around the country, candidates are promising to enact policies that are clearly unconstitutional. Others are promising to achieve economic results that are mathematically impossible. Knowledgeable folks tend to discount these statements as political games candidates play, but in at least some cases, it’s clear the candidates really don’t know any better.

It would be nice if we could simply shrug off the more embarrassing examples of electoral dysfunction, but the quality of our political candidates ultimately affects both the voting public and the public administrators trying to serve that public.

Just as having a crazy boss makes a private-sector worker’s job more difficult, electing people to set policy in areas they don’t understand is a major barrier to public problem solving. If members of the House Science and Technology Committee reject evidence of global climate change (last year, one member reassured a panel of climate scientists that we don’t need to worry because after the flood, “God promised in Genesis that He would not destroy Earth again, and I believe God”), where will we find the human and fiscal resources necessary to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions? If members of the Texas Board of Education reject evolution and choose creationist textbooks that are then adopted for use throughout the country, how do conscientious science teachers do their jobs? For that matter, where will we find the next generation of competent biologists and doctors?

There are a number of things individuals might do to help clean up the current mess that is our election system. We can visit fact-checking sites to vet campaign pronouncements. We can work to reform the redistricting process. We can sign on to one of the various efforts to reverse Citizens United – the case that opened the money spigot that became the gusher of SuperPac spending. Those of us who are educators must work to raise the levels of civic literacy in this country.

And we all need to withhold our votes from those who run campaigns geared to public passions and popular ignorance.

We need to close the great disconnect.


  1. I know I’ll sound like a broken record, but once again the US is going to Hell in a hand basket. I got out while I could, when will the mass exodus of refugees headed to Canada begin?

  2. I agree with you, Stan. However, if you moved to Europe, you jumped back from Hell to Purgatory, or it might even be further up Dante’s Hell.

    Has anybody been paying attention to who currently runs a more significant chunk of Europe? Talk about a “great disconnect.” Trump looks like a puffball compared to these Fascists.

    Sheila presents an excellent argument for Utopia, but it’s gotten much worse since she wrote it. The oligarchy is setting up the USA for a right-wing presidential victory in 2024. If folks can’t see this, it’s already too late.

    Once again, I don’t watch TV for news, but I see all the brands on Twitter. It isn’t very comfortable. If that is your diet of staying informed, you are part of the disconnect.

    If you didn’t catch the interview with Jeffrey Sachs recently on Bloomberg, here’s the link:


    It went so well until Jeff noted the “great disconnect” between the world’s perspective of the USA and the media-based narrative (propaganda). Once he did, there was a talking head meltdown.

    How is much of our media so cohesively disconnected? 😉

  3. So, who’s disconnected?

    The entirety of humanity is disconnected! In Chicago, today is the marathon. Lower Wacker drive is packed full of homeless people in their cardboard shacks and second hand tents. But not just lower Wacker drive, several of the viaducts heading towards the downtown area are packed. This isn’t new but it’s getting worse, it’s the same thing in Knoxville where entire blocks are taken over close to the shelters and homeless missions. Tents and viaducts are the sleeping facilities.

    And yet, tens of billions of dollars are being sent to Ukraine to fight Russians. My thing, if you hate Russian so bad go over there and dispatch them instead of dragging the world down the toilet with the conflict.

    I have no faith and human foresight. Because history shows humans might have an idea of what’s coming, but not the willpower to change it.

    Name one time in history where humanity actually changed course and bettered the entirety of humanity? How many times has the wheel been reinvented when the wheel works just fine? Then maybe there would be enough brain power to work on something else? That’s the power of the problem, no cohesion, no real common goals, no sense of urgency, because someone else will fix it! Barack Obama said many times, “We are Who we’ve been waiting for!” And what a disappointment that has been! And that’s being generous.

    I know what’s coming, and, it’s going to be horrific! Because history has told us what is going to happen. Except, this time, it will probably be the final time in history, or the history of the system we live in now.

    With the Advent of communication advances, you would think humanity would be better equipped to handle any surprises that would come along. Instead, everyone’s lounging on their own petard self-absorbed waiting for something to happen, someone to lead the way, someone to do something and it will when those petards let loose. There will not be a single desired effect after that.

    This thread mentions individuals believing their own arguments, arguments based on fantasy and fallacy. The problem is, lying is easier than truth telling, it’s easier to lie to the dumbbells listening, so they don’t get too riled up from the truth. After all, isn’t it legal to lie in politics? For what purpose? For power! But what happens when there is no can to be kicked down the road, or no road for that can to be kicked down? Anarchy? Probably, and that will accomplish exactly zero. It’ll just Grease the skids towards Oblivion.

    Ever heard of the Scapegoat? Two of the most perfect goats, sometimes twins, one was slaughtered, sacrificed, and the other was sent off in the wilderness supposedly carrying the sins of the people away. We’ve all heard the term Scapegoat, but many don’t know where it came from. (Azazel)

    Humanity can never see the clear picture, because humanity despises history, and refuses to tell or hear truth. So the willfully deluded or the self-agrandized, the narcissistic and the greedy, the jealous coveters, the liars and conspiracy theorists, the ignorant and those wearing blinders, will only be able to see a hazy outline, they will always look in a mirror darkly!

    They will never see the clear picture, when the real thing comes, it won’t be recognized. Then it’s too late! (1 (Corinthians 13:1-13)

    I would suggest you maybe read Colossians 2:16, 17 and, John 1:17!

  4. After reading this post, it seems clear that not much has changed in 10 years.

  5. For some reason I saved the political flyers I have received; only Andre Carson provided information on what he has done. Robert Frost quote doesn’t fit any of the flyers, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep…” as I found no promises to be kept or broken. DCCC sent a list of “Meet The Obstructionists” which held no surprises; still in office and still obstructing.

    Sheila is so right in her essay; I do think that Democrats “who run campaigns geared to public passions and popular ignorance.” DO need our votes because WE need their numbers and can weed them out later if they are problematic. That is how Trump’s White Nationalist MAGA voters are beating the election system, with their numbers and supporting such as Walker and Gohmert and those who are most dangerous to democracy.

  6. Today’s political “applicants” have already been hired by corporate/banking America. Their “campaigns” are nothing more than the talking points that have been dictated to them by their employers. Todd calls them oligarchs. I’d label them cynical traitors to democracy. That’s what we will elect to represent us in government…with a few exceptions.

    Running away from the United States is a cowardly act by people who haven’t got the stones to actually do something to fix our problems. These cowards actually abet the demise of our once-great country. They must be so proud of their degrees and finger-flipping courage.

  7. whos paying for what? doesnt matter,most ads are funded and made to use ignorance as a primary fact. the dnc/rnc and others now select political office on who is more likely to just sign off on a commitee/legislation. (imagine hershal as a knowlegable)(er,like football,dodging something)the republicans seem more open about just someone to sign off something over someone taking a stand on values, and majority needs. any ads today are probably funded on the dark side, and who elese but the rich and thier needs first. (and to keep the working class in line) it all seems to make a stand on something else. the issue of the back pocket,is second or third, or,doesnt exist. talking with the northland political party,(nodak trumpers) never once in discussion they ever said,wages,social programs,or democracy. (except when democracy is used to fulfill their needs over the others) a rabid case of no civic education here folks,its probably never discussed. i was listening to a religious/political show last night (for what i could take).seems mr patriot defended the republicans(circa 1866) for ending slavery,and continue to do so..I guess he has never read a thing since then.

  8. While I certainly agree that politicians should be functionally/technically qualified for the roles they are running for, we have large numbers of Ivy League/big business resumes in the career politician class. The qualification least often considered is kind of person they are – their moral core.

    In my 5 years of trying to help potential servant leaders to the US House, we have learned that excellent governing can come from college professors, non-profit leaders, small business people and entrepreneurs. What do they have in common? They put country over party, country over ideology.

  9. Political parties represent the electorate in the processes that they use to “elect” candidates. Of course, that process is deliberately obscure because it must serve so many stakeholders but wealthy donors hold most of the cards because the eventual winner in most cases is the person with the most money behind them to donate to buy political ads on popular media. In other words, our HR system finds job candidates for our consideration based on almost only their ability and success in influencing financial backers.

    The primary and general elections after that are mostly bought by the donated funds spent largely on finding and making public, disparaging “news” about the opposition.

    How then are we surprised then by the outcome, the quality of our representation in government?

  10. God promised in Genesis that He would not destroy Earth again, and I believe God”
    My question is can the destruction by humans be stopped??

    Have you noticed how many campaign ads are not showing what political party the candidate belongs to?

  11. In view of the above blog, what do we make of the Republican candidates for local and state elections who refuse to participate in forums like the one in Hamilton County sponsored by the League of Women Voters? How about both of our Congressional Senators who do not do any kind of public forums where they might have to be responsive to questions about policy by reporters or their constituents? What about the Republican candidates who have scrubbed their stance on abortion from their web pages in order to avoid having to defend a position?

    If the voters cannot find complete and reliable information about the candidates’ qualifications/policy stances, how do we make an informed decision in the voting booth? An employer might be very reluctant to hire someone who refused to disclose educational and work experience on a resume. Are we so desperate to find someone to hold office, that we would hire someone, anyone, who applies?

    We get what we pay for. Those with extreme wealth pay for what they want, people who may or may not be qualified but are very willing to do their bidding no matter the legality/logic/morality of the directives. The rest of us are just noise to be manipulated or ignored.

  12. Interesting,

    We have cause and then effect, we all see the effect portion, but not really sure about the cause.

    It’s not just me or my opinion on cause, many historians of which I’ve read, say the same thing about cause. The moral foundation of society collapses over and over again. It’s been proven by the Egyptian empire’s demise, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Romans, the Sumerians, the Greeks, and others, all disintegrated because moral foundation of their societies collapsed.

    And today, what’s happening? Morals seem to be in the eye of the beholder, which, they are not.

    Wholesale murder, murdering your fellow man for sport which is what’s happening now, it’s not just a gang war or a bunch of gang wars. There are individuals who go on hunting trips just to murder. And that’s a majority! There is no sanctity of life, there is no sanctity for truth, there is no sanctity for compassion, and there is no sanctity for love!

    The idea inevitably and invariably becomes implanted and more advanced societies that anything you want to do is okay. Also, laziness! And, the Advent and promotion of propaganda and cynicism.

    When boundaries are nibbled away at, so are compassion and empathy, trustworthiness and industriousness. Then Cynicism arrives enmasse, boundaries are a fallacy, we are told that whatever we decide we want to do will just make us better, to live a more fulfilling and desirable life buy Cynic standards.

    Do yourself a favor and read the history of Diogenes and what followed! Eventually, the Cynic philosophy fell into disrepute and disappeared as a philosophical pillar. Although, some Cynic aspects were absorbed into other philosophical schools of thought.

    Even though today so many Express Cynicism, we express a faith in something that was a failed philosophy or belief.

    That’s why history repeats, and that’s why humanity is ignorant of its own moral boundaries and obligations! And will continue to do so until this civilization disappears with the other so-called enlightened democracies of history. The Smithsonian has some very good articles about this very thing, and it highlights the Greek and Roman republics. And, what is happening here!

  13. Sheila, the consistency you demonstrate in this instance is related to the consistently ignorant, and/or
    “played” ignorance of too many legislators. Sen. Inhofe’s snowball in congress may have been spurred on by his
    ignorance, or by fossil fuel money, and we will probably never know which. The person you quote, who was on
    that committee, and put his/her faith in faith, rather than science, may well have been in the same situation as Inhofe,
    but, we’ll probably never know. He/she may have been put on that committee because of the predictability of that
    one’s religious stance, for all we know. I, for one, would certainly not put that past Boehner. But, as is apparent, in 2022,
    and was not so in 2012, is that playing to the religious extremists can be a politically, though sadly, useful move.

    On another hand, people seem, too often, to vote based on their anxieties, rather than facts, and not only Trump,
    but especially Trump, has played on this piano. In this vein, I point to the recent explanation that his popularity
    is based on his hating and fearing the same people that the “deplorables” hate and fear. But, do we know that he
    hates and fears that way, or did his malignantly narcissistic, and anti-social skill set, allow him to recognize that that
    was the tune to play?

  14. A key qualifier for GOP candidates this year – ignoring facts.

    A consistent theme/drumbeat in GOP campaign ads is “The Immigrant Fentanyl Crisis at the Border” . Just read this today:

    The conservative Cato Institute released a study on Sept. 14 that shows this claim to be false (tinyurl.com/cato-fentanyl). Three conclusions from the study:

    – “In 2021, U.S. citizens were 86.3 percent of convicted fentanyl drug traffickers—ten times greater than convictions of illegal immigrants for the same offense.”

    – “Over 90 percent of fentanyl seizures occur at legal crossings points or interior vehicle checkpoints, not on illegal migration routes, so U.S. citizens (who are subject to less scrutiny) when crossing legally are the best smugglers.”

    – “Just 0.02 percent of the people arrested by Border Patrol for crossing illegally possessed any fentanyl whatsoever.”

    Further info: the crisis is caused by demand in US – guess who from – where are the opioid deaths the greatest? A clue: not the professional class, not the suburbs, not Blacks, not Latinos…

  15. Lester,

    When your last paragraph is pointed out, those individuals in that specific ethnic class that you’ve alluded to, live by Chuck Berry’s credo, lol, “it must have been some other body!,”

    If you haven’t heard it, YouTube it!

  16. 600 people are dying daily from Covid. Yet,the president says the pandemic is over.
    Disconnect indeed.

  17. I wish the Democrats were a bit more aggressive in their ads. They really need to be focusing on the loss of democracy and rights.

  18. Ivory Towers; you and too many others do not know what the term “Pandemic” means. Think back to year one of Covid-19 Pandemic when refrigerated trucks were needed in many U.S. cities to hold the vast numbers of dead which filled morgues and funeral homes didn’t have room for. It is Epidemic in some areas but no longer world-wide.

  19. JoAnn,

    Absolutely it’s worldwide. It’s still wreaking havoc in some areas in china, Britain is bracing for another outbreak this winter, close quarters is going to increase transmission. Better keep that hand sanitizer and masks handy!

  20. Sheila – your journal essay is truly still relevant.
    Forgive me for pointing out one missing element (and one new one).

    You didn’t mention how enamored the public is with “business owners/CEOs”. “I ran a successful business” and “I was CEO of a large company” are not qualifications for public office. First, we should note that this includes the Rick Scotts, who were “successful” by breaking the law, although supposedly answerable to a Board, and Donald Trump, who broke laws and had no Board to answer to.

    Business peoples’ success is measured by a single value – Profit. The government is not in the business of making a profit and no one in the government can issue edicts, even the chief executives. Checks and balances exist.

    Even corporate CEOs that answer to Boards issue edicts. It is only when they fail that the edicts might be reversed (and sometimes not) and the CEO then gets their “golden parachute”.

    I have mixed views on “I served in the military”, although it seems a better commitment than the days when it meant “I got drafted”.

    Then there is the new one, especially in local elections – “I am a Christian”. First, religion in not a qualification for office. Second, it “might” mean that this is a moral person, but third, it most likely is a dog whistle for “I am a right-wing MAGA evangelist”.

    As an aside – I picked up an old political science book from the ’60s with data mostly from the ’50s and post-war ’40s. The same issue was apparent – Civic Ignorance. One difference – those people tended to vote less; I fear that this is no longer the case, even though I still believe that everyone should vote, even the ignorant (Otherwise I would only trust myself and I don’t want that responsibility 8)> ).

  21. The mark of a well-thought out and written essay is how well it stands up to time. Well done!

    Apathy and ignorance have always been the Achilles heels of democracy. In percentage terms, very few Americans can name one of their US Senators or their House rep, and probably don’t even KNOW that they’re also represented in Indianapolis by a Senator and Representative. A Secretary of State? What’s that?? County Commissioner or Council Rep? Nope. Party Precinct Committee Person? Not a chance. Even worse if they live in a city or town as there’s another whole layer of government to think about (unless you live in Indy).

    It takes an effort to KNOW that these offices exist and what they do, or are supposed to do, and too few of us seem to value that knowledge. UnfoIt takes a LOT more effort to understand even the basics of current issues, the arguments on ALL sides and decide where one stands on them. But all that combined knowledge and decision making is in itself a form of political influence as it usually (not always) leads to a more informed vote, the LAST thing most of our modern politicians want.

  22. The rich are well aware of their position’s strengths and flaws, and have many hired strivers to fix the flaws. For instance, an obvious fix for lack of political knowledge for voting discrimination among candidates is unbiased information, like the FDA for food and drugs, or the FAA for airline safety, etc.
    The “solution” for that has been implemented, by the vast disinformation campaign against “so-called experts” in medicine (demonization of Dr. Fauci). Climate change? Same thing, only the IPCC. Support the evangelicals, they’ll wreck abortion choice. Support wokies, they’ll disgust the normals. There is no politics at the top, just expediency. It’s not Right vs Left, it’s Rich vs All the Others. We work for the rich, and like the plantation owners, they feed, house, clothe and entertain us so we won’t revolt.
    So fire up your JetSki, grab a beer, or a latte, and sink into your dreams. It will be rougher as the surveillance gets tighter…

    Like Woody Guthrie, I’m just hanging around for the show.

  23. Ivory Tower and John P Sorg: “A pandemic (from Greek πᾶν, pan, “all” and δῆμος, demos, “local people” the ‘crowd’) is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of individuals. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected individuals is not a pandemic. Widespread endemic diseases with a stable number of infected individuals such as recurrences of seasonal influenza are generally excluded as they occur simultaneously in large regions of the globe rather than being spread worldwide.” Wikipedia and other researched sites.

    John, using your definition, yearly flu epidemics, head colds, sore throats and pneumonia could be considered Pandemics.

  24. Ormond; “The rich are well aware of their position’s strengths and flaws, and have many hired strivers to fix the flaws.” You have described economic plastic surgery which has become rampant in politics and sadly in government. The Trump Republican rush to support Herschel Walker puts them on the side supporting abortion which their own Supreme Court just overruled.

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