“The system has failed.”
Have you heard this comment lately? Does it express how you feel about America?
This one sentence, vague as it is, nonetheless captures a common sentiment about the current condition of the United States.
With the “occupy” protesters disrupting civic life around the country and President Obama publicly bonding with them, we’re seeing that magical phrase – “the system has failed” – being used in increasingly ambiguous ways. So it makes sense that the rest of us should ask a couple of important questions: What “system” are they talking about? And in what sense has that system “failed?”
At times it would appear that the occupiers are decrying our American system of constitutional, elective and representative government. “Our voices aren’t being heard,” many of them will say, implying that they are being trampled-upon by an abusive dictatorial regime.
But if you probe deeper and ask “what do you mean by that?,” it often becomes apparent that what the occupiers are really saying is “my policy ideas were rejected,” “the election didn’t turn out the way it should have,” or “I disagree with the outcome of the legislative vote (the congressional rejection of the Obama tax hikes is a perfect example of this).”
Thus, the claim that “the system has failed” implies a very self-centered, narcissistic view of the world – “the system is not producing the policies that I want, so therefore the entire system is wrong.”
Another component to the “not being heard” claim is the fact that many of the occupiers seem disinterested in participating in the processes of making public policy. Pollster Doug Schoen recently noted in the Wall Street Journal that while an overwhelming majority of the occupiers voted for President Obama in 2008, less than half will vote to re-elect him and at least 25% won’t vote at all in 2012.
Similarly, in a recent interview I did with occupier “Christine,” the intelligent and articulate 25 year old gushed on my daily talk show about how the movement signals a “new awakening” where people are “letting their voices be heard.” Yet when I asked, she couldn’t name any elected official who represents her in the U.S. Congress, her state legislature, her city council or school board, and she openly admitted that she did not vote in the 2008 presidential election.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.