This past Tuesday, the American people ventured out to their respective polling stations and exercised their right to vote. In doing so, they expressed their various opinions regarding which politicians they believe should be elected into office. These voters took part in the most fundamental aspect of our democracy and completed their obligations as citizens. However, recently our Congress has shown that they are not upholding their duties as representatives and are not taking action to improve the lives of the American people. Constant fighting between parties is common in American politics and has become the focal point of many politician’s efforts. This has lead to the American people developing negative attitudes and a disappointed attitude towards how Congress is being run. The results and aftermath of the 2014 congressional elections that took place on November 4th directly reflected this and showed how Americans desperately want the way our Government is run to change, or to simply get things done. Our Government has broken its social contract with the American people and needs to take action in order to re-establish this trust.
English philosopher John Locke wrote a social contract theory that greatly influenced the United States Government and its founding documents. As we discussed in discussion and lecture for Polsci 101, Locke stated that in the state of nature, people are free, equal, not harmful, rational, independent, and seek self preservation. Now according to Locke, Governments are formed by a social contract between the people and the Government. This Governing body is an unbiased judge who essentially keeps the peace and derives its power from the people. Like the United States, Locke’s form of Government centers around the collective majority and functions based on their opinions. Since the social contract formed here is between the people and the Government, each side has obligations which they must uphold in order for this system to function properly.
Now in the United States, politicians are not keeping their social contract they made with their citizens. By constantly arguing and competing with opposing political parties for power, these politicians are in a sense breaking the social contract that they agreed to when they took office. By taking their oath of office, these politicians vowed to effectively represent the citizens that elected them, which they are not doing. Politicians on both sides are constantly trying to bridge the gap between the two political parties, as seen in President Obama’s statement after the congressional elections. Working together is easier said than done in the President’s situation. Constant criticism and blame has been placed on President Obama for the Democrat’s loss in this most recent election and for the inaction of Congress and our Government as a whole. The President defended his previous policies and called for agreements to be made on several others, but whether compromise will actually occur is questionable. These attempts at compromise and collaboration have been shut down by both parties and have proven that something needs to change. New York Times Op-Ed contributor Frank Luntz went as far as saying, “Washington doesn’t listen, Washington doesn’t lead and Washington doesn’t deliver.” This delivery of policies that benefit the American people is how these representatives are upholding their side of the social contract. Clearly Washington needs some reworking and a new Republican Congress and existing Democratic Executive branch may do more harm than good.
The midterm election has been declared a win for Republicans, however, elections should not be considered a victory or a loss for any side. If the tables had been turned and this election was a win for Democrats, the same issues would be present. If all our politicians value is whether their political party is in power, how can we trust them to do what is best for the people they are representing and not their party affiliations? This sense of mistrust is the driving force behind American’s discontent with how their political system is being run. The Government of the United States has clearly broken their agreement with the American people and needs to repair this contract to not only get things done, but to also improve the lives of Americans and regain the trust of the people they are representing.