Blame Your Favorite Scapegoat for Dysfunctional Politics

<em>National Journal</em> readers blame Washington failures on pimps, supposed-Marxists, and deities.

A member of the Tea Party movement holds posters of U.S. President Barack Obama depicted as Adolph Hitler during a protest outside the Fairmont Hotel before President Obama arrives for a fundraiser May 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
Add to Briefcase
Matt Berman
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:50 a.m.

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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