Americans are becoming more disenchanted from political parties, and their skepticism toward government efficiency is rising.
“The parties themselves are divided within, and Americans, both voters and elected officials, are openly pessimistic about the chances for a turnaround. Not only are Americans skeptical of government’s ability to solve their problems, but their faith in a wide array of institutions has waned, experts say,” Susan Milligan wrote for U.S. News & World Report.
To an extent, it explains the success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two outsider candidates who exceeded the expectations and beat many party insiders. Americans aren’t sure what they want, but they want something different from past experiences.
Sanders has called the economy “rigged” and Trump has found success in branding Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” to garner votes. Voters, feeling their economy and political system catering to the elite and well-connected instead of “the people,” have grabbed onto those narratives and supported those candidates.
That makes political parties more susceptible to populist and independent candidates, undermining party loyalty and structure. Rather than parties grooming candidates who follow the long-term strategy, goals, and principles, they deal with renegade political figures.
The loss of faith in American society for its institutions isn’t new. As Rod Dreher noted in The American Conservative, Gallup polls found the public’s trust in institutions hasn’t been this low since 1993. Much of that has been a result of disastrous policy and leadership failures.
“In observing the behavior of these institutions, I sense a strong defensiveness, and an unwillingness to be self-critical, leading either to a denial of institutional problems, or a private recognition of problems, but a public unwillingness to deal with them out of fear of losing face. I suppose it has always been that way, and we are only now learning the truth of what has been there all along, given human nature. Maybe,” Dreher wrote.
The American people have found their social institutions weak or incompetent, and their patience has run thin. Political parties, public figures, corporations, the police all have lost public confidence and will need to improve before that confidence returns. How to regain that confidence, however, is a difficult problem to solve.