A significant number of Americans feel that their government is out of touch with them. Below is a look at the different branches of government and how they affect the perceptions of the public about government involvement with issues affecting them.
Many American presidents have been accused of being ‘out of touch’ with the public. According to Towle (2004), this can be explained by a combination of factors key among them fickle public opinions, failure to meet the expectations of the public and choosing to “do the right things over the popular things” (p. 4). Image problems on the president’s part are also to blame for the unflattering perception that the public has on him. Once the public start thinking that the president is unresponsive to their needs, then it becomes an entire government issue because the whole administration will be judged from the same light.
According to Towle (2004), the strained relationship that exist between contemporary presidents and the public mainly happens because administrators in the president’s office treat public opinion with contempt and in the process alienates the president from useful pointers that may give him a better understanding of the people.
Without a clear understanding of the public opinion, then the president stands no chance at relating well with the public. But what exactly is public opinion? Towle (2004) argues that public opinion at any given time is the prevailing temporary common will of the people, which covers perceived attitudes about the government’s role, government legitimacy, perceptions about roles played by the citizenry in the prevailing political order and perceptions about good governance and right policies.
When the public feels the presidency is out of touch with their needs on governance and social issues, then they usually conclude that he is indeed out of touch with the public. George W Bush is an example who failed to understand the public and hence was seen as being out-of-touch with Americans.
Unlike the legislature and the executive, the judiciary only comes into contact with the public on issues relating to law enforcement and the maintenance of law and order. Yet, it is unsettling that the judiciary is often perceived as the branch of government that is most isolated from the realities presented in the society. The public usually believe that ‘law has its owners’ usually leaves constitutional matters to the experts.
When it comes to issues of crime and punishment, the public believes that only a judge who understands the community and the values where a crime was committed can make a good judgment (Baynes, 2007). Among the most cited reasons why the judiciary seems to be out of touch with the public is the lack of diversity therein and the restricted access that people have to the legal profession.
Being a diverse nation, most people expect that the diversity would be reflected in the courts. Where diversity lacks, Baynes (2007) observes that the public will mostly lose confidence in judiciary’s decision-making. A perfect example is New York State where a majority of judges are white and hence the people of color lack the confidence that they would get justice in the court systems in the state.
While the legislature is made up of the senate and congress, it is the former that receives the most bashing from the public. According to Hibbing & Theiss-Morse (1995), while most congress men get elected on a promise of better governance and change, they soon start complaining about the hectic pace in congress, demands from people they represent, demands from interest groups, the divided legislative process and the intrusive media among other things.
This usually happens when the congressmen cannot meet the promises made to their electorate as fast as they would want to. With the country slowly reeling out of the recession, the major disappointment with congress among the people seems to be its inability to pass laws that would make the economy better (Pascal, 2010). Congressmen also lack the ability to prioritize the problems facing the country and hence fail to accord them the necessary urgency.
Baynes, L.M. (2007). Public Forum: A lasting Blue print for Judicial Diversity. Retrieved June 14, 2010 from http://www.stjohns.edu/media/3/799d1cde239c48cb9dd5514161d11fba.pdf
Hibbing, J. R & Theiss-Moire, E. (1995). Congress as public enemy: Public attitudes toward American political institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pascal, M. (2010). Washington DC is out of touch with reality. The Moderate voice. Retrieved June 14, 2010 from: http://themoderatevoice.com/60205/washington-dc-is-out-of-touch-with-reality/
Towle, M. J. (2004). Out of Touch: the presidency and public opinion. Texas: A&M University Press.