Paul Jacob

Years ago, my wife and I recounted our early public school experiences to our children. My wife boasted that she finished her schoolwork before her classmates and then got to help the teacher put up elaborate wall-boards and such.

Me? I got in trouble for failing to do the assignments in favor of gazing out the window in my own daydreams.

I summed up this difference for the kids by declaring, “At a young age, your mother gladly worked for the man, while I refused to work for the man.”

As this election hit its homestretch, these thoughts come to mind. Democrats are in trouble. With control of the White House and Congress, they personify “the man.”

No one wants to work for the man.

Whether it be government man, big corporate man, or labor boss man, Americans yearn to shrug off the yoke. What happened to working for ourselves to build our own dreams?

The problem for Democrats isn’t merely the estimated 9.6 percent of Americans unemployed, but the percentage of us who remain working while seeing our future and our country frittered away in corruption and for various utopian schemes.

And polls show Americans may dislike Republicans in even greater percentages.

So, forget Democrats and Republicans. American society is not nearly as deeply spilt as is often asserted (nor were my wife and my experiences in school). There is more consensus in our political thinking than commonly perceived.

The partisan divide is a device to exploit lesser issues to drive emotional wedges between people who generally have the same interests.What better reason to vote Republican than the Democrats? What better reason to vote Democratic than the Republicans?

Voters don’t like either party. The choice of bad or worse has gotten old.

The latest Wall Street Journal poll shows three out of four of us would gladly replace the entire Congress with new folks. Many incumbents, at least compared to recent history, will be defeated this election cycle. That’s for the good, but it won’t be the kind of full-scale house-cleaning that is needed. Regardless of the result, even a change in party control, the congressional leadership of both parties is likely to look too darn familiar come next January.

We need term limits! But, of course, our rulers balk.

Yes, a divide exists. There are two Americas. Those who believe in the “wisdom of crowds” and those who believe in the wisdom of Washington elites. It is a much more meaningful dichotomy to examine than the two parties.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen seems to understand this best. His Rasmussen Reports polling company constantly asks questions the establishment polling outfits don’t. For one, he breaks down his poll respondents into the “Political Class” and “Mainstream Americans.”

Now, I’m not certain the three-question test he uses to separate folks into these groups is the absolute best way to do so, but one doesn’t have to buy into Rasmussen’s specific criteria to see that his general conception is an interesting prism through which to view politics.

Last month, by Rasmussen’s criteria, 67 percent of people in the “Political Class” said the country is headed in the right direction, while 84 percent of so-called Mainstream Americans said we’re headed the wrong way. Other Rasmussen surveys show similar massive chasms between the views of the Political Class and Mainstream Americans.

On Friday, Rasmussen Reports released polling showing that 71 percent of Americans support requiring a national vote to approve any changes in Social Security passed by Congress. When it comes to raising taxes 61 percent of us want a tax hike approved by Congress to go to a national vote to be approved or rejected by the people, with 33 in opposition.

A national vote? Those who believe “representative government” to be a device to get the unwashed masses arms-length or further from deciding any issue of governance will bemoan such a vote as unworkable and dangerous. Those who believe representative government is all about the people actually being represented will have no dilemma with allowing the people to represent themselves at the ballot box.

On the issue of a national vote there is again a stark difference of opinion between the Political Class, who oppose a public vote on changes to Social Security (60%) or on raising taxes (73%), and Mainstream Americans, who support a vote on entitlement changes (78%) and tax increases (72%).

Rasmussen Reports is ahead of the game in another way, too. He’s been tracking the key political question of all: Does our government have the consent of the governed?

The answer in July was that 23 percent of us feel the government has that consent; 62 percent believe it does not. That’s actually an improvement from February, when only 21 percent felt the government possessed public consent.

Obviously, we don’t trust our government. Just as obviously, we shouldn’t. Our government must earn our trust. Politicians can start this process by trusting the wisdom and common sense of the people.

Last January, I suggested a three-issue commitment all candidates worthy of support should have no difficulty embracing: support for term limits, ballot initiative and referendum, and transparency. Political leaders capable of representing Mainstream Americans must (1) agree to hold power only temporarily, with a departure date certain, (2) serve us by establishing a process where “We the People” get to vote and trump the political elite, and (3) provide the public the information necessary to judge the decisions made by government.

We want our rulers to become our servants. It’s history’s rarest achievement.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.