71% Of Americans Believe The Founding Fathers Would Be Disappointed At The Way The Nation Has Turned Out

from the prodigal-nation dept

The last dozen years haven’t been too kind to our country. A brief surge of patriotism followed the 9/11 attacks, but the Bush administration managed to channel that national pride (and a large dose of fear) into a series of regrettable laws, policies, government expansion and wars. The rough sketches of a homegrown surveillance state have been present for several decades but it took the chaos of a terrorist attack to bring it into sudden, sharp focus.

The current administration didn’t improve matters, embracing and expanding the model of government surveillance and control put into operation by its predecessors. Throughout it all, whistleblowers have emerged, filling in the details of the shadowy operations operating behind the scenes, safely out of the public eye and for the most part, beyond accountability.

The latest round of leaks have solidified the state’s image as an untrustworthy guardian of the nation’s “security,” a premise so flimsy its aims and activities are still mostly shrouded in government-enforced secrecy, aided and abetted by the executive orders of a compliant president.

It’s little surprise that a majority of Americans believe the founding fathers would be disappointed by US 2.0 — a country whose representatives have shown the willingness to sacrifice their constituents’ freedoms for “safety,” all without having the courtesy to discuss these “sacrifices” until absolutely forced to.

Seventy-one percent of Americans think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed by the way the United States has turned out, a Gallup survey released Thursday shows.

The country hasn’t been deemed “pleasing” to the founding fathers by a majority of Americans since 2001, when it briefly hit a high of 54%. Since then, it has slid to half that — 27% — over the last decade.

Interestingly, a person’s opinion on what the founding fathers might think of the country has little bearing on their own particular pride in being an American.

As the United States celebrates Independence Day, most of its adult residents continue to say they are proud to be an American, including 57% who are extremely proud and 28% who are very proud. This high level of pride in being an American has varied only moderately over the past 12 years since the question was first asked, but has been lower since 2005 than it was in the years prior.

That seeming dichotomy is something our legislators should take a long, hard look at. A person’s pride in their nationality is almost completely divorced from their respect for the government. This shouldn’t be viewed as a license to continue screwing things up. After all, the American public’s confidence rating for Congress is in danger of slipping into single digits.

No, the takeaway should be this: patriotism isn’t tied to government activity. It never has been and it never will be. Crafting bad laws to make America “better” or “safer,” as happened post-9/11, is nothing more than a hideous form of coattail riding. It’s a way to exploit emotional surges in order to expand government power.

Being proud to be an American despite the actions of those in power is a great thing. Our government long ago ceased to be truly representative of the population, instead searching for expansions of power and engaging in willing servitude to a variety of corporations and special interests. The divide continues to grow. Our nation is two entities: the people and the state.

Our founding fathers would be displeased, but maybe they too would hold out hope that our country will correct the course set by the last two administrations. More disappointed than angry. And still optimistic.

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Comments on “71% Of Americans Believe The Founding Fathers Would Be Disappointed At The Way The Nation Has Turned Out”

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53 Comments
Prashanth (profile) says:

Re: Displeased?

Well, to be fair, Jefferson did predict having to replace the Constitution every 19 years. That hasn’t happened de jure, but it could be argued de facto.

Anyway, I realize that this article being on TechDirt would lead it to be interpreted as Americans disapproving of things like NSA spying, but given recent other polls showing the lack of widespread disapproval of that program and others that take away basic rights to speech, privacy, and such, does this poll really mean much in particular?

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Displeased?

It should be said that Jefferson did not have a hand in creating the Constitution (he was in France at the time).
His position and argument was that the dead should not govern the living. Since the Constitution is a living document. Meaning that it can be amended and amendments can be replealed — this argument by Jefferson is greatly diminished.
Jefferson also said:
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

Davey says:

Re: Re: Re: Displeased?

The ability to amend has become a tragic fantasy. In the current dysfunction there’s no way healing amendments are going to be passed, because doing so depends on the sources of the failure, Congress and the legislatures, to destroy the oligarchy they themselves have created. Much of the problem lies with the Founders themselves and the cumbersome anti-government structures they created. They’d have good reason to be displeased, even disgusted. They’d also have good reason to be ashamed of themselves.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Displeased?

Since the Constitution is a living document.
Meaning that it can be amended and amendments
can be replealed

Yes, if only they actually did that and amended it the proper way instead of the (much easier) method of having the Supreme Court ‘interpret’ words and phrases to mean the exact opposite of what they actually say in order to get around limitations on governmet power that all three branches find inconvenient.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Displeased?

does this poll really mean much in particular?

I think it means that most citizens have realized that the government does not represent them or act with their best interests in mind.

What the founding fathers intended was a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” That’s not what we have.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think ‘disappointed’ is an understatement! ‘horrified’ would be much closer to the mark! and when you think about it, it’s all because one or two powerful people have turned things on their head and probably only for personal benefit and gain! the ‘disappointment’ part is they are being allowed to do it and get away with it!!

The Real Michael says:

Funny, I don’t recall being asked this question. Whenever they say “X% of Americans” from a narrow poll, they’re being disingenuous at best. Who knows who was surveyed or if they tampered with the polling results.

That said, yeah, it’s rather obvious that the founding fathers of this country would be extremely outraged over what has happened to this country. (I mean do we really need a poll to validate it?) Heck, they went to war over a 3% tax. Of course England tried to disarm the colonists (read: gun control) so that she might subject the country to her authoritarian rule. Ironically, our founding fathers were considered traitors and terrorists. What does that tell you?

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are more than a few political and special interest groups who will use anything to further their agenda. It’s no secret that polls are used to influence public opinion, therefore, logically, there’s an interest in skewing the figures to portray a desired outcome. No ‘conspiracy theory’ necessary.

Notice how they don’t say “X% of 547 Americans who were polled” or something to that effect. Nope, it’s the routine “X% of Americans” generalization. Chances are, you don’t know a single person who participated in this poll and nor do I.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Notice how they don’t say “X% of 547 Americans who were polled” or something to that effect.

They don’t headline that sort of thing because it is a meaningless and misleading factoid in isolation.

What’s important is not the number of people polled, but the margin of error in the poll (which takes the number of people polled, and other important characteristics, into account).

dennis deems (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-4, 2013 with a random sample of ?1,529?adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia

Have you ever worked as a telephone interviewer calling random people to conduct a survey? I have. By far the majority of people you call will decline to answer the survey. They will say they don’t have time, or they aren’t interested. So right off the bat, telephone surveys are limited to a sample not of the general population, but of those among the general population who A) answer the phone when a computer calls them, B) enjoy talking to strangers on the telephone, C) have time to take out of their day to talk to strangers on the telephone, and D) are interested in responding to a survey about a random topic.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Whenever they say “X% of Americans” from a narrow poll, they’re being disingenuous at best.

Not true. Properly done, statistical sampling is very accurate and you can indeed get a very good estimate of a large population by polling a tiny percentage of it.

If you have a problem with the methodology of this particular poll, that’s one thing, but if you’re saying statistical sampling itself is invalid, that’s just incorrect.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Well they do say children become their parents...

… and the US seems to be making a good go of topping the British Empire at its height for running rough-shod over everyone that gets in the way of amassing as much power and wealth as possible – be they foreign or domestic.

I think the founders would say that the current state of the US looks eerily familiar…

YetAnotherAnon says:

"A republic if you can keep it", Ben Franklin

It has always been the responsibility of the voting public to safeguard themselves. Manifestly we have failed ourselves. Data mining makes demographic analysis and gaming the opinion of the voter an easy task. Conning the US public into abandoning public funding of elections in favor of unlimited commercial “speech” coupled with GIS driven gerrymandering makes the American voter almost irrelevant. In the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”, we are neither anymore.

textibule (profile) says:

Sigh

I left the US for Europe 20 years ago. At that time I was pissed and disappointed by America’s big heavy boots, stomping and dissing any non-american entity that crossed its radar. But somehow, in the same tone as some of the posters here, I was a little bit proud to be American.

Now, forget it. The US is seen as the Axis of Evil in much of the (rest of the) world that I love to visit. I can’t disagree. I’m ashamed.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What would you have us do? We’ve voted for “change” (and we got the same dame thing), we’ve protested by the thousands in cities all over the nation. We’ve voiced our opinions to our representatives. We’ve made vary vocal to the world that we are displeased. There’s only one option that we haven’t started to explore.

Are you seriously advocating violence?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Are you willing to admit to a stranger on the phone your not proud to be an american?
Seriously?

Cause its not like if you disagree with that idea they will call you a terrorist lover…. er wait.
Or if you disagree with that idea they will call you unpatriotic… er wait.

Might be worth rethinking those numbers after you remember the jingoistic xenophobic love it or leave it attitude that is constantly on display.

Its now basically a crime to disagree with the powers that be, and you think people will give you real answers over the phone.

Antoinette Marie says:

Um. They’d probably be all WTF and worship us as gods. We have cars, telecommunications, plentiful food, vaccines, hospitals, tiny computers that can fit in our pockets. We’ve explored the moon, the bottom of the ocean, both of the poles. We built a nuclear bomb, well many of them. We have a completely different world now. Our country is global and it is not an agrarian society anymore. They *knew* society would change and evolve, thus why they put an amendment process in there in the first place because the Enlightenment recognized the capability of the human mind to continually progress and change. I think it is safe to say they would not be ‘disappointed’.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“were the dominate power in the world?”

Last I checked America can still nuke the whole goddamn planet three times over and still have a few warheads left to play with. That sounds like the dominate power in the world to me (at least in the military sense).

And sadly, I have to agree with you on the second part. They wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Europe nearly destroyed itself in what was pretty much a pair of back-to-back wars. The Founding Fathers did have to deal with Napoleon after all…

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

So does the disappointment come before

or after they get over the shocking fact that a) Slavery is now illegal, and b) there is a black man (Obama) in the White House and running the country?

Aside from that, yeah, I figure that the founding fathers would be rather displeased with how our government’s currently acting.

That said, do we really need to keep going back to the “Founding Fathers” all the time and treat them like some sort of modern demi-gods every time we’ve got some major government scandal that should be (but currently is not) rocking this nation to its very core?

dennis deems (profile) says:

The thing about surveys

Question design is crucial. These questions are too vague to yield meaningful analysis. What exactly is meant by “the way the United States has turned out”? Are we to think of social ills such as slavery and child labor? Are we to consider class-stratification and an individual’s power to choose their profession? Availability of education? health care? Every respondent will have his or her own understanding of what we are being asked to compare, and what the founding fathers’ collective attitudes would be to these issues.

TLDR: “How would [dead person] have felt about [x]” is a topic for Steve Allen and his celebrity guests to discuss, not a data point from which social or political scientists may glean anything at all useful.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the infamous dictators of history such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were President, it would pretty much be the same. The only things missing are the government sponsored massacres with body counts in the millions, nationwide death camps, absolute lack of free speech, disarmed citizens everywhere, and rock-bottom standards of living; we are dangerously close to all of the above.

On the other hand, if the Founding Fathers lived among us, they’d also critique the way the government is run and find themselves on watchlists, if not outright jailed/killed under very loose interpretations of secret laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would be much more optimistic about America’s potential ‘turn-around’, if our political system was more than a two-party system.

We no longer have anybody willing to represent the people in office, except for maybe Ron Wyden. Only one or two politicians representing the people’s wishes, isn’t even close to causing a ‘turn-around’ in America.

I would vote for someone different, but I can’t because only nominees who can raise multi-million dollar election campaigns are allowed to be put on the voting ballot.

The only way to raise that kind of money is to get $1 contributions from millions of ‘average’ folks, or a few large contributions from multi-million dollar corporations.

As such, the downward spiral of American Politics shall continue, until we have an ‘Egyptian Uprising’ movement and demand representation for the people.

We already did with the Occupy Wallstreet movement. Most of the people in that movement were from the younger generation of American.

Pretty soon I can see a future Occupy Uprising succeeding, once the new younger generation becomes the majority, instead of the minority.

Micah (user link) says:

We have faltered, but we don’t have to fall.

We were told “A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state.”

We just have to “ante up and kick in”. It just starts with being responsible with ourselves and our own. I recommend the article/interactive timeline Freedom in America: Insights from the Founders and other great Americans in “41 Things Every American Should Know.”

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