The Genius of America: A Little Revolution with Continuous Reinvention

Can you imagine anyplace else on earth where a spontaneous political movement like the TEA party could arrive on the scene with such intensity without serious repercussions?  Whether you agree with the TEA party views or not this is a pure and perfect exercise of the constitutionally celebrated freedom of speech, assembly and petition.

Thomas Jefferson would love this.

Perhaps it is because after more than 234 years we have come to accept—and even welcome a little revolution now and then to shake up the status quo.  A recent Gallup poll reports that Americans’ confidence in Congress is at the lowest level in decades.

“A record-low 36% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the legislative branch of government, down sharply from the prior record low of 45% set last year. Trust in the judicial branch and trust in the executive branch also suffered sharp declines this year but remain higher than trust in the legislative branch.”

“Trust in the legislative branch was highest, at 71%, in May 1972, and remained generally high from that point to the mid-2000s. It then dropped to 50% in 2007, 47% in 2008, and 45% in 2009, all record lows at the time they were measured. This year’s 36% legislative confidence rating marks still another record low, and is the lowest trust level in any of the three branches of government in Gallup’s history.”

“Trust in the executive branch has shifted up and down with some frequency over the last four decades, generally in sync with movement in presidential job approval ratings. Gallup measured the lowest level of trust in the executive branch, 40%, in April 1974, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, which later that year resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation. Trust was nearly as low in the waning years of the George W. Bush administration. Last year, the first year of the Barack Obama administration, trust in the executive branch shot up to 61%, but it has fallen back again this year, coinciding with the fall in Obama’s job approval ratings to below 50%.”

“Trust in the judicial branch of government is at 66%, down from last year but roughly in line with readings since 2003. Gallup recorded the highest judicial branch trust reading, 80%, in February 1999, at about the time the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice William Rehnquist was presiding in the U.S. Senate over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.”

These people we have elected to Congress in the past are not bad people.  But some of them have been there too long, have come to see their views as “righter” than those of their constituents, and more recently have seriously misread the public desire for a change in leadership at the top with public support for a sweeping intrusion into the lives of average Americans with breathlessly large expenditures of money we do not have.

The TEA party movement is a uniquely American way of telling our politicians—You are so busted!

The Democrats see this coming but the Gallup polls suggest the public is just as uncertain that electing the same old Republican team will produce a better result.  That is why the TEA party movement has gained such momentum so fast.  It is seen as made up of people more like us.  It seems to reflect the “common sense, Main Street” values we hear about so much but see practiced in Washington DC so little.  The recession has sapped our confidence and we don’t see the policies and spending deployed to restore the ship of state as working very well.

We long for a return to traditional times, traditional values, traditional economic conditions of growth that resulted in traditional jobs with benefits.  Whether that toothpaste can be put back into the tube is uncertain but candidates who promise to try to do so are favored this year over those who are seen as part of the problem.

So Jefferson’s revolutionary spirit first writ large in the Declaration of Independence and then embodied in our early government lives large again today.  But it is the other genius of America that is more lasting and arguably more important—the ability of America to reinvent itself, to adapt, to grow into tomorrow. From the early lessons of de Tocqueville that ability to imagine a future better than the past and live into it has separated America from every other nation on earth.

It is why today 234 years later people still clamor to come to America—to live the American Dream.  And no one has ever been shot in the back trying to escape America because no one can imagine the need to do so.

There is much we need to fix in our country but the lack of confidence in our Congress and our disappointment with our President’s job performance are serving Jefferson’s genius well today 234 years later offering a little revolution and a continuous process of reinvention.

Celebrate it—-and make sure you vote!


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