LZ Granderson: Government is only as good as the people we elect
He says voters often seem to have little understanding of the issues
He says we also vote for people who have no regard for the facts
Granderson: If government is broken, it's our fault
Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of CNN Opinion articles on the question, “Why is our government so broken?” LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET.
Whenever I visit Washington, I can’t help but think this is the town that elected a crackhead as its mayor.
I know, I know it’s not PC to say, but just because it’s insensitive doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
But think about this: There is footage of Marion Barry in a room of crack smoke saying, “Bitch set me up.” And yet that image, that video did not disqualify him from being seen as a viable political option in the mind of voters. In fact, not only was he re-elected mayor after serving time in a federal prison, today he sits on the City Council, all because he managed to convince enough black people that the video of him with the crack pipe in his mouth was white people’s fault.
When analyzing what is wrong with our government, allow me to present this example as Exhibit A.
Exhibit B would be Newt Gingrich, who cheated on two wives and is the only speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations. And yet somehow he is running for president of the United States as a religious conservative and managed to get 8% of the votes during last week’s straw poll in Florida.
Are you freaking kidding me?
The fact that he is even on camera discussing the country’s sense of morality during the GOP debates should be offensive to any thinking person regardless of party affiliation. And yet someone, right now, is thinking about sending his campaign a check.
And who can forget Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who last year, in trying to push a controversial immigration law, said law enforcement officials found headless bodies in the desert, the work of a Mexican cartel. But she was forced to admit that wasn’t true, that she had “misspoke.” What she didn’t speak about was her close ties to the private prisons that were set to profit because of the new law. Ties like her campaign manager and her spokesman being former lobbyists for private prison companies. And despite the obvious conflict of interest, she won easily, saying on election Tuesday, “Tonight, the people have redeemed and renewed America.”
Nice work, people.
I could go on but I think you see what I’m getting at: The biggest reason government is broken is because of voters.
Let’s face it. A lot of us are just plain stupid.
Or at the very least lazy.
We want our candidates to use easy-to-digest buzz words such as “family values” or “clean energy” so we don’t have to actually invest too much time thinking. We can just slip our brains into auto-pilot and cruise on into November.
Do I believe our politicians need to be perfect? No.
But damn, you would think people would draw the line at crack.
Or blatant hypocrisy.
Or just making stuff up as a candidate goes along.
Each time Rep. Michele Bachmann insinuates falsehoods into her arguments, as she did earlier this month on the “Today Show” by suggesting HPV vaccinations cause mental retardation, I think: A group of people on auto-pilot in Minnesota did this to us.
When you know important debates are influenced by people who don’t like being bothered with facts, you question just how many of the country’s problems over the years have been caused by people who should not have been involved in the process in the first place.
But they are because of us. So can we genuinely complain about government without accepting a lot of the blame? I don’t think so. After all, they didn’t elect themselves. So if we want government to work, we have to be smarter about our choices. It’s one thing to have a population with a variety of political sensibilities; it’s another to be a country full of idiots. Too many times we vote and consequently govern like the latter.
We have to move away from easy-to-repeat campaign slogans and promises of easy solutions, because we’re a country with more than 300 million people, a complicated racial and religious history and the world’s largest GDP. There are no easy solutions.
So if you’re the kind of person who likes to say “I don’t follow politics,” let me remind you that no one lives in a vacuum and that sentiment epitomizes what is wrong with our government. I don’t blame Sarah Palin for thinking she can still toss her hat in the ring. I blame us voters for creating an environment in which a Palin or a Gingrich or even a reality TV star like Donald Trump can feel as if they can run and even be taken seriously.
Last week I was bombarded with e-mails from readers who said Social Security should be protected because they paid into it, but they didn’t care about Medicaid or Medicare because the government pays for those. And in 13 months some of these people will be voting for president.
You want to know what’s wrong with government?
I just presented you with Exhibit C.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.