Thanks, Obama. No, seriously. Thank you. I don’t wish crippling dysfunction upon our federal government, but since it brings it on itself at every, ever-loving turn, collapsing under its own hulking weight and hardened corruption, I do embrace the raised awareness of Americans about this state of affairs. They’ve been too forgiving of its incompetence and largesse before now, and no incompetence or largesse gets corrected without citizens objecting to it:
Michael Hansen, age 45, is not alone in thinking that national politics has become “almost like a slow motion car wreck.” Every week brings another seeming crisis from Washington D.C.—the congressional showdown over the continuation of funding for the Homeland Security Department was just the latest. It’s enough to turn off ordinary Americans from the down-to-the-wire negotiations and theatrics.
“After 10 years of paying attention to politics, I just prefer state and local government,” says Hansen, an independent voter who works in food sales and lives in Idaho, just outside of Sun Valley. “I think local and state politicians actually listen more. They have to live within the same rules that they create.”
The most recent results of the 22nd Heartland Monitor poll, sponsored by Alllstate and National Journal, bear out Hansen’s assessment of who is best suited to lead the U.S. Years of federal gridlock and dysfunction have left the public favoring state and local institutions over the federal government as the places best equipped to offer solutions to the country’s ongoing economic and social challenges.
And federal government? Well, it just leaves people wanting more, according to the polling data. Of the 1,000 American adults surveyed, just 26 percent said that national-level institutions were making progress, compared to the 64 percent who favored the state and local levels. This conclusion cuts across the lines of gender, education, socioeconomics, and even different regions of the country. In short, Americans are fed up with the sniping and paralysis at the federal level and instead are turning their attention to local governments and groups for solutions.
The preference for governance closer to home carries across ages and genders. Sixty-seven percent of men favored state and local institutions over national ones, compared to the breakdown among women of 61 percent for local and state level versus 27 percent for national. Poll participants who identified as Republicans expressed some of the least regard for leadership at the national level. Just 14 percent of Republicans said the national level was marching ahead toward its goals; Republicans, who have long advocated for a smaller footprint for the federal government, overwhelmingly favored the activity of state and local institutions.
But not all poll respondents disliked national level institutions and leadership in such an extreme fashion. The youngest generation, combined with the 60- to 64-year-olds, expressed the greatest amount of hope in progress at the national level. Thirty-one percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favored national institutions over local ones, while 34 percent of adults ages 60 to 64 preferred the national level.
It makes perfect sense that governing entities closer to your home, your particular needs, and your voice might be more responsive and helpful in actually making people better off (and/or allowing people to make themselves better off). I’m glad to see so many Americans realizing it. Now, this is fertile ideological ground for conservative philosophy and for Republicans who have won so very many governor’s mansions and state houses thanks to this backlash. Get thee to sowing and reaping it.