Why Democracy Doesn’t Work the Way You Want It To

It’s not because politics has become increasingly polarized (though it has), nor because legislators have become less honorable. (Less honorable than one legislator beating another with a cane?)

It’s always been an uphill battle. Aristotle understood that. Jefferson knew it. There is simply a level of ignorance that defies rational discourse and decision-making:  

While 75% [of Americans] identify the Republicans as the party regarded as doing best in the midterms, fewer than half (46%) know that Republicans will have a majority only in the House when the new Congress convenes in January.

Overall, 39% of the public knows that the government spends more on national defense than on education, Medicare or interest on the national debt. About one-in-four (23%) say the government spends more on interest payments and 15% say Medicare is the largest expenditure of these four alternatives. Government accounting estimates indicate that the government spends about twice as much on defense as on Medicare, and more than four times as much on defense as on interest on the debt.

Does it make a difference? You bet it does. Just ask Larry Bartels…or George Carlin:

No, it doesn’t excuse corporations from buying votes, but it might give you a little perspective on just how hard it is to “change” Washington. And that applies to both parties.

Update: Think you’re the exception? Answer the following two questions: (1) Just based on what you know, please tell me your hunch about what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. (2) What do you think would be an appropriate percentage of the federal budget to go to foreign aid, if any? After answering — don’t peak! — see how close you were to the real answer.