Getting the Government We Deserve
French political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville said that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Jonathon Turley proves the point with this post, aptly entitled Elected Officials Score Lower on Civics Tests Than Average Citizens (Who Score Lower than Basic Condiments). Condiments are considering organizing a new political party but are squabbling over the name.
American elected officials showed a shocking lack of knowledge about government, history, and basic constitutional principles in a national survey. They scored a failing grade of just 44 percent on a basic test of knowledge of our nation in a quiz by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Average citizens scored 49 percent. Note: many of these people scored less than a random or blind selection of answers — quite an achievement.
These are the people who get to vote on laws. How does that grab you?
The test, which can be found here, isn't easy, and some of the questions are ambiguous and a little confusing. But then, these are men and women who hold themselves out as qualified to make decisions about running a rather large nation. Is it too much to expect that they have an adequate working knowledge of civics?
From the AFP story:
"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.
"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.
One the most common refrains during the election just completed was that Americans wanted elected officials who were "like them," which I took to mean could understand their thoughts and concerns. Perhaps that desire comes hand in hand with elected officials who have no greater knowledge or understanding of how America works then they do? Is this really what the American people look for in their elected officials.
I took the test and got a 30 out of 33. Less than great, but better than most condiments. Two of my wrong answers were a product of sloppy reading, and one was pure unadulterated error. Take it and see whether you are qualified to become a very important government official. If you get higher than 44%, the answer is apparently no, you're overqualified and the other folks in Congress will resent you for your intellectual snobbery.