Why Are Today’s Politics So Awful?

“Why are today’s politics so awful?”  There are several reasons, many of which will be explored in this four-part series. In a nutshell (pun intended), the Communications Revolution has enormously contributed to the belief politics is more awful than ever due to its impact upon the public, the media, the politicians, and the country. The prior three weeks we examined the public, the media, and the politicians. Today, we examine the prospects for improving today’s corrosive political climate.

While today’s politics are awful, past periods in American life have experienced even more contention and horrific violence. This is not to diminish the nastiness of today’s politics, but to put them in perspective: America has faced – and surmounted – far worse.

America is not an economy, nor a military, nor an ideology. America is a country – a very young country, one whose foundational documents instruct us that we will always be in a state of “becoming.”

After all, the Constitution tells us the continuing goal is to “form a more perfect union.” The Declaration of Independence tells us we have the God-given, unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

As imperfectible human beings, we can never achieve the perfect union. And we are not guaranteed to attain our happiness. But in our American journey, individually and collectively, we continue to face (if not always immediately address) questions on how best to mutually advance both goals. It has ever been so; and often quite trying on the national soul.

Once, some Americans thought the abject evil of slavery could co-exist in a republic founded upon liberty and equality for all. But other Americans said no; and a bloody civil war spurred emancipation.

Once, some Americans thought “separate but equal” could coexist with the professed ideals and written guarantees of our country. But other Americans said no; and commenced the civil rights struggle to ensure the Constitution and the laws of the land applied to all Americans equally, regardless of race.

Once, some Americans thought our democracy could endure despite barring half of her sovereign citizens from voting. But other Americans said no; and the suffrage movement constitutionally secured women’s right to vote and, thereby, the opportunity to serve in every position in government.

Once, some Americans believed our nation could live in splendid isolation from a dangerous world.  But other Americans, confronting modern strategic realities, defended our country and our allies against these existential threats and made – and continue to make – the world safer for democracies.

As our history shows, in addressing these momentous issues, it is human to focus on the discord and divisions as we debate them. But stepping back, we see sovereign citizens and their public servants doing their civic duty – and without a tyrant capable of silencing this public debate and imposing their capricious will upon the people. These quarrels within our national family are both necessary and proper, because it is how we free people form a more perfect union and advance the pursuits of our happiness. It is the beauty of democracy.

This beauty is not lost upon our nation’s enemies, for it constitutes an existential threat to their totalitarian and autocratic regimes. Thus, they will continue to denigrate the beauty of democracy and brand it weakness and decadence. Should these rogue nations threaten our national security, we remain blessed with the protection of the American armed services, comprised of our fellow citizens who, along with their loved ones, have voluntarily sacrificed so much for us; and constitute a force for moral good in the world.

So, as we perpetually address the questions of how to improve our imperfectible union and pursue our happiness, we can take heart in the progress made along the way; and know that, in undertaking this uniquely American journey, we are doing our duty to inspire the world with what a free people can achieve.

Still, the worried warn us of the improbability of improving our imperfect union and pursuing our happiness due to today’s awful politics and the Communications Revolution enabling and exacerbating it.

In his inaugural address, at a time when our nation’s hateful political climate devolved into the slaughter of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln asked, “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better, or equal, hope in this world?”

Slight over 150 years later amidst today’s awful politics, following the initial installment of this series a perceptive X user named “Tony” wrote:

One could argue that the increased visibility and engagement in political issues, facilitated by modern communication technologies, is a positive development. It allows for more diverse voices and opinions, potentially leading to a more informed and engaged populace.

Doubtless, Mr. Lincoln would agree. For the hope to transcend today’s awful politics; to restore and redeem America’s revolutionary experiment in self-government; to pursue happiness and form a more perfect union remains the American people.

It remains you.

And, as the Honorable Judge Elihu Smails asked: “Well? We’re waiting.”

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: President Abraham Lincoln Sitting at a Table (Photo by Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)