What should we make of such rankings? I think it reflects the fact that the public is smarter than politicians seem to believe. Bankers, for example, went from a ranking of 37% for high or very high ethics in 2006 down to 23% in 2010. Bankers are now tied with TV reporters. That seems about right. Each group seems to want to put their spin on a story whether it’s the supportability and relative safety of mortgage loans that led to the financial crisis or how one side of the political spectrum portrays the other as the evil incarnate.
The bottom line is the public has lost all respect for the political process that is driven by lobbyists who cozy up to members of Congress by acting as used car salespeople to promote their cause all the while advertising that that they are trying to help the public.
Professor Mintz argues that these poll numbers indicate that the public has lost all respect for the political process. I agree.
However, I would like to add that the public has virtually no way of taking any effective action whatever their feelings.
There is little chance of being elected to office in the United States without money usually a great deal of it. Most Americans cannot make the kind of contributions that makes them a player in political campaigns. Those few that can give that kind of money have different interests than most Americans. So, what most Americans want done will not be done while what a minority of Americans want will be done.
It seems hopeless to even try to think of how to change the system.
The influence of money in elections is not decreasing, it is increasing. The total costs of the 2006 congressional campaigns were about two and one half billion dollars. The 1998 races were a billion dollars less.
The two party system makes it difficult to run as a candidate with non-traditional views. Look at it as a consumer. Essentially we have two flavors of political thought that no one really likes and the way the system is set up we can’t have another flavor. Political thought is homogenized into a form non-threatening to major donors. You can only make one of two choices in an election both of whose party organizations are devoted to fund raising.
If that wasn’t bad enough, political thought is also marketed by the enormous media empires. Their influence is manifested in a common political view expressed by pundits in print or on television. Overwhelmingly the most influential are concentrated around a New York – Washington zone of media coverage. Sometimes referred to as the beltway, this small group generally determines what is politically acceptable and politically possible.
Another factor in public dissatisfaction is the power of international finance and global corporations. Although corruption and a casino mentality produced a financial cataclysm in 2007, a disaster that leaves us with ten percent unemployment even now, these giant organizations were never called to account but in fact rewarded with hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, trillions in financial guarantees and the privilege of borrowing from the Federal Reserve at zero percent interest. There have been no criminal prosecutions and their profits (and bonuses) have increased.
Because influence is concentrated with those who make large campaign contributions, most Americans have negligible influence in the government. Their concerns and needs do not appear important either to the government or media.
Day after day goes by with the government acting on issues critical to the interests of the donating classes and beltway philosophy.
This day by day continuous grinding repetition of political powerlessness creates a majority of Americans who hate the political system and consider the participants to be marginally better than criminals.