Unhappy with the state of politics? We have the power to change it

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Americans are fed up with politics. That is an obvious recent conclusion. survey as if Pew Research CenterMany of us have “consistently negative” views of politics and elected officials. People are desperate. There are many reasons why we feel this way. I wasn’t particularly alarmed by the survey’s findings. What matters is that we maintain our will to reform our corrupt politics. That is very important. If the American people are not willing to participate in politics, that is a real problem for our democracy. Fortunately, there’s evidence that we haven’t reached that point yet. Americans have long had a healthy skepticism about political power and the people who wield it, but a Pew survey suggests that mistrust has reached a new level. 65% of those asked said they are tired of thinking about politics. More than half said it did not make them angry. Only a few were disappointed or excited. When asked to describe American politics in one word, many came up with “divisive,” “corrupt” or “chaotic.” When asked to identify the strong points of our politics, more than half of them could not come up with anything. It is clear that our politics is in a difficult time. Congress seems dysfunctional, struggling to pass spending bills to keep the government running. A senator blocked promotions for hundreds of military officers. Election campaigns are full of personal attacks. The divisions threaten our support for allies, including Ukraine, which belies the claim that politics stands at a water’s edge. Partisanship has reached new heights, with Democrats and Republicans seemingly living in separate worlds. One thing both parties agree on is that our politics aren’t working. Dissatisfaction with politics cuts across political, social and demographic lines, according to a Pew study. It is shared by white, black, Asian, and Hispanic adults. It affects young and old alike.Nearly nine in 10 Americans say politicians focus on fighting each other instead of solving problems. 28% distrust either major party, the highest number in 30 years. It is common to hear that neither party cares about the common man. Americans do not trust the executive and legislative branches of government, and most have a dark view of the Supreme Court. Americans question its increasing role in politics. 85% said that the cost of election campaigns keeps good candidates from competing and that special interests have too much influence on politicians. Only a quarter rate the quality of political candidates as very or somewhat good, down 20 percentage points over the past five years. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening. The 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections have seen the highest turnout in decades. About two-thirds of eligible adults voted in 2020, the highest number for a national election since 1900. These are very encouraging signs. And the people have ideas to improve our politics. In a Pew poll, a majority favored limits on campaign contributions and spending. The study found broad support for term limits for members of Congress and age limits on elected and appointed officials, including Supreme Court justices. This month’s polls in Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia drew high interest and participation. In another promising sign, many young people ran for office — and often won. We Americans have always been optimistic and forward-looking, confident in our ability to solve problems and make progress. We are right to be unhappy with the state of our politics, but we have the power and potential to make our politics better.

Lee Hamilton is a senior advisor at Indiana University’s Center for Representative Government and a distinguished scholar at IU Hamilton’s Lugar School of International and International Studies. He was a member of the US House of Representatives for 34 years.

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