Do we ask too much of our politicians and too little of ourselves?


Duncan C. on

Americans are always calling politicians incompetent and just plain stupid, yet only 37% know who their congressperson is.

Luke Brennan, Opinions Editor

It seems like no matter what your political affiliations are, everyone has an opinion on politicians. They are either genius and beloved or incompetent and despised. Eventually, even if they are well-liked, they are constantly fighting a barrage of attacks from both sides of the political aisle for the decisions they are or are not making. 


When President Biden won the 2020 presidential election back in November, people were literally dancing in the streets, celebrating like everyone just won the lottery. Now, only four months later, centrists and even Democrats have already begun to turn on him. While he certainly has made some questionable decisions in his first few months in office, it is unfair to write President Biden off as “just another incompetent politician.” 


This is especially ironic coming from Americans, many of whom know little to nothing about how the government actually works, so I ask you: why do you feel like government officials are not doing their jobs properly when you do not know what their jobs are? We created a society whose citizens have completely checked out of the democratic process and we only have ourselves to blame. 


While I am not asking every man, woman and child to have a master’s degree in political science, the lack of awareness of the political process in this country is inexcusable. According to a 2017 poll from market research firm Haven Insights LLC, only 37% of Americans can name their representative yet 65% think they are overpaid. 


A 2019 Civics Knowledge Survey from Annenberg Public Policy Center found only two in five American adults could name the three branches of government and one in five couldn’t name any. Who your congressional representative is and which government branch they belong to should not be a difficult question. You can easily look it up online and have the answer in minutes. But no, use that time to tweet something stupid and gross at Chrissy Teigen. Yay, America! 


I’m not picking on millennials, either. This is by no stretch of the imagination a new problem that has cropped up in the last couple of years. In 2003, when the U.S. was preparing to go to war with Iraq because they were involved with 9/11 (which they weren’t) and had weapons of mass destruction (which they didn’t), seven in ten Americans believed Saddam Hussein was directly involved, even after both the Bush administration and congressional investigations openly said there was no evidence to believe that was true.


President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Do you know what you can do for your country? Put down the phone and pick up a book. Learn what the Bill of Rights is. Learn what Roe v. Wade is. Learn about this government you know nothing about but feel you can criticize relentlessly.