US politics “has reached a dangerous low point”

A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll indicates that confidence in the US about their democracy is dropping, with many thinking politics has reached a dangerous low point.

Do you think problems in America’s politics right now are similar to most periods of partisan disagreement, or do you think problems have reached a dangerous low point?

  • Have reached a dangerous low point 71%
    (Temporary 31%, the ‘new normal’ 39%)
  • Similar to most periods of disagreement 29%


Do you think divisions today are at least as big as during the Vietnam War?

  • At least as big as during the Vietnam War 70%
    (ages 65 and over 77%, 18-29 65%)
  • Smaller 27%
    (ages 65 and over 18%, 18-29 34%)

How proud are you of the way democracy works in America?

  • 1996 (GSS) 16%
  • 2002 (Post) 9%
  • 2004 (GSS) 10%
  • 2014 (GSS) 18%
  • 2017 (Post/U-Md) 36%

How much, if at all, do you blame each of the following for causing dysfunction in the U.S. political system?


Ordered by ‘A lot or some’/’Not at all’

Money is clearly seen as the biggest cause of dysfunction in US politics, but there are other contributing factors.

While Trump is well down that list he is the fourth highest ‘A lot’ at 51%.




Worlds attitudes to Trump

This probably doesn’t really matter much, except perhaps to someone with a big ego and an obsession with being seen as popular, but here is how parts of the world outside the US see Trump.

Dangerous level of political vitriol

In a rare post political enthusiast Geoffrey Miller has written about New Zealand’s increasingly dangerous level of political vitriol.

This looks at recent online attacks on politicians and particularly the escalation of public attacks on MPs by throwing things at them.

A tremendously open political environment

In New Zealand we are used to meeting politicians on the streets, at school fairs and at sporting events. If you want to meet a Cabinet minister – or the Prime Minister – it is not particularly difficult.

But this is under threat due to a few stupid attacks, and too much glorifying and trivialising by media, insufficient condemnation and a lack of appropriate consequences.

Part of the reason for the escalation is anger and frustration about John Key’s ongoing popularity.

The far left’s increasingly desperate anger

There is little doubt that some voices on the left have become increasingly angry in recent months.

These are a vocal minority, to be clear. Radicals are by definition a minority.

In recent months, the anger has focused mainly on the TPP.

But another, more deep-seated reason for anger is John Key’s continuing popularity. Anyone who has dipped into the comments section on The Standard, or who follows left-wing activists on Twitter, or reads comments on the various activist Facebook pages knows how central John Key to the discontent.

A constantly updated list of hundreds of John Key’s “lies” on The Standard has been shared thousands of times on Facebook.

There is plenty of legitimate criticism of John Key and the government.

But anyone who has visited the left-wing blogosphere, or Twitter-verse, or the many Facebook pages know that there is a nasty underbelly.

Very nasty at times.

The risk of escalation

On Monday, David Cunliffe tweeted “I’m no great Brownlee fan, but politics is a tough gig and most people try to make a difference.  Doesn’t deserve it”.

Cunliffe’s tweet was in reaction to a tweet by scientist and Green Party activist Dr. Sea Rotmann, who had tweeted: “I’m just glad that NZs proud tradition of throwing things at senior politicians stays alive and well”.

Acceptance and encouragement like that is as big a part of the problem as those nutty enough to do throw something, or to make stupid comments online.

Let’s tone down the rhetoric

That’s good advice for many online forums, including this one.

We are talking about a small minority who hold a visceral anger to the government.

For a handful, this anger is so visceral that that they are willing to take physical action, as seen in the Brownlee and Joyce incidents.

Again, this is a tiny minority.

We have every right to criticise, make fun of, even mock politicians.

We should not tar genuine opposition to the government with the same brush.

We should have robust debate. More than that, we desperately need it., especially given the weakened state of our parliamentary opposition.

Protesters are doing the job that Labour and the Greens currently are clearly not doing adequately inside parliament.

There is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.

But hurling objects at MPs is not peaceful.

So far, the incidents have been harmless.

Unless politicians, media and people online recognise huge risks of not confronting and quelling the anger and inappropriate behaviour it could escalate to something far more serious.

Like New Zealand, Sweden long had a tradition of personal, retail politics in which politicians rub shoulders with voters as apparent equals. That’s what one expects in a small country.

But there is one big difference between Sweden and New Zealand.

Sweden has suffered not one, but two political assassinations. The first, in 1986, was the murder of then Prime Minister Olof Palme.

The second, in 2003, was the killing of foreign minister Anna Lindh.  Had it not been for her untimely death, Lindh was in line to be Prime Minister.

We should keep Sweden’s experiences in mind when reflecting in the increasingly dangerous level of political vitriol that New Zealand has seen in recent months.

It’s worth reading the whole post – New Zealand’s increasingly dangerous level of political vitriol.

Could it get worse? Easily. This week someone is in court for threatening to put 1080 in baby milk formula. He said in court yesterday he just cracked one day.

This is more of a left wing problem, simply because of timing, we have had a centre right Government for the last seven years and anger and encouragement of anger has been getting worse over that time, often fueled by social media.

I saw many despicable attacks on Helen Clark when she was Prime Minister, and these still continue to a lesser extent. And there’s been ongoing nasty attacks and abuse directed at the procession of Labour leaders since Clark stepped down.

Andrew Little is lower profile and less powerful so gets less but he still gets unfairly attacked. It should be noted that he was on hand to personally support Gerry Brownlee immediately after that attack. I’m sure all MPs are aware of an uneasy about potential escalation.

Key happens to be the PM copping most of the attacks but the Joyce and Brownlee incidents show that no one is immune. The person who attacked Brownlee said he could have targeted Key instead.

I think our political leaders have a responsibility to jointly stand up against escalations – and them behaving better in parliament would help set an example.

Media have to seriously look at their complicity in glorifying and encouraging anger and bad behaviour. They should be responsible for more than click harvesting.

And prominent people in social media and blogs should also speak up against the worst of anger and personal attacks online.

Poverty and dud Dads

No amount of tax redistribution and benefit boosting will address one of New Zealand poverty’s biggest problems – males who root without taking responsibility for consequences.

In fact we have an epidemic of males actively avoiding taking responsibility for their problem.  Deadbeat and dangerous Dads are one if the biggest factors in families who struggle.

Half of kids deemed to be living in poverty are in solo parent families – where it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple fathers responsible for the pregnancy but irresponsible for everything else.

My guess is that most females would like good dads for their kids, Dads who are actively involved in the welfare of their family and do whatever they can to provide for their partner and children.

Far too often the women least prepared and and least able to care for their children are the ones who mate with the fuck and fuck off males who couldn’t give a fuck about the mother-to-be or the well-being any kids.

These munter males are high in the neglect and abuse statistics.

Tax redistribution and parenting education won’t address the problem of dud Dads. And that’s possibly the biggest problem New Zealand’s under-fed under-educated unwell kids have.