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Blame Your Favorite Scapegoat for Dysfunctional Politics Blame Your Favorite Scapegoat for Dysfunctional Politics

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Who Broke Washington?

Blame Your Favorite Scapegoat for Dysfunctional Politics

National Journal readers blame Washington failures on pimps, supposed-Marxists, and deities.

Bad, demagogic Photoshop helps nobody.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

photo of Matt  Berman
October 4, 2013

Everyone is to blame for the current decrepit state of being in our nation's capital. There's a reason to assign guilt to and find the roots of dysfunction in every Washington resident institution. And, yes, according to our readers, that includes National Journal.

The hundreds of reader responses to National Journal's "Who Broke Washington" series run a full gamut of finger-pointing. Harry Reid's a "PIMP and the PROSTUTE [sic]" writes one reader. "The Marxist in the White House" is to blame, another reader writes. Or maybe it's Karl Rove, who's been "the sole owner of driving the wedge between political parties." The American people are to blame for not "decisively choosing between the two parties," writes another. It's the D.C. media's fault "for sucking up to Washington's powerful." It's National Journal's fault, because, as one reader wrote, "I think you know."

No joke, two responders even left the blame at the feet of Jesus, compared with one vote for Satan.

 

This is obviously not scientific. People who comment on online stories (and we love you guys—keep doing your thing) are not representative of America as a whole. But polling backs up a "blame everyone" sentiment. A Pew survey from the end of last month found that 77 percent of Americans felt either angry at or frustrated with the federal government as a whole. And they are also not big fans of journalists and the media. A new CBS News poll finds that Americans are largely split in whom they blame for the government shutdown, with 44 percent blaming congressional Republicans and 35 percent blaming Democrats and the president. Americans also don't trust, well, polls.

In his "Who Broke Washington" piece today, Ron Fournier places blame on former House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a man who "checks every sleazy box," from redistricting to a political "my-way-or-the-highway mind-set." The thing is though—and Fournier gets at this point—this kind of aggressive political sorting is rampant among everyone. That, of course, includes our wonderful commenters.

National Journal's readers may be onto something when they blame a wide swath of America (and deities), political and otherwise, for our current political troubles. Large numbers of Americans don't trust anything, and some resort to political demagoguery with ease. Washington isn't going to get fixed by retreating to specialized outrage networks and calling each other "PROSTUTES." The practice of assigning blame itself can become a crutch that keeps things broken. We may not have all "broken" Washington, but we may all deserve some of the blame for keeping it this way.

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