Pessimistic About Politics, Optimistic About America

My latest book has a simple message built right into the title: “The Sun Is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not” expresses my deep pessimism about our broken political system and my great optimism about the future of our great nation.

Many in the political world have seemed puzzled by that combination. But recent polling shows that I’m far from alone in those views. Seventy-seven percent of voters believe that America’s political system is badly broken. Eighty-two percent of them believe that the problem stems from political leaders’ failing to follow the Constitution.

The evidence of a broken political system is all around us. Most voters think it’s likely that their own representative in Congress trades votes for cash. And only 23 percent believe their representative is the best person for the job. Just 16 percent trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time.

Despite all this, Americans are optimistic about the future. Fifty-seven percent share my belief that America’s best days are still to come.

This optimism stems from the reality that the culture and technology lead the nation forward while politics and politicians lag behind. Sixty-five percent of voters recognize that just about all positive change in America begins outside of the political system, far from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

Seventy-one percent also recognize that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had a bigger impact on the world we live in than the last eight American presidents combined (that’s all the presidents who have served since Apple and Microsoft were founded).

Rather than look to Washington for solutions, Americans look closer to home. Seventy-seven percent agree with one of my book’s main themes: “For America to succeed, we need an all-hands-on-board approach that unleashes the creativity and resources of individual Americans, families, community groups, churches, entrepreneurs, small businesses, local governments, and more.” Only 3 percent disagree.

Forty-four percent believe the power to walk away is more important than the right to vote. In my book, I make the case that they’re right. The ability to walk away is one reason people are more satisfied with state and local governments than with the federal government. Few people vote in local elections, but their ability to stay or leave places significant constraints on the actions of political leaders.

The power to walk away also played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement as various states competed for residents by offering more political rights to women. And, of course, the United States was founded by people who chose to walk away from an unresponsive king in England.

Put it all together and it’s easy to recognize that the failures of our political elites will not destroy the nation. It would be nice, of course, to have a government that truly lived up to our ideals: of the people, by the people and for the people. But our nation will prosper because there is so much more to governing society than government.


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