By Chris Talgo
Historically, “drain the swamp” has referred to the emptying of swamplands to reduce mosquito populations, thereby curbing diseases such as malaria. Today, the phrase has become a popular political metaphor after being masterfully used by Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election. “Draining the swamp” now refers to the Trump administration’s effort to reduce the size and scope of the corrupt national government, thereby curbing political malfeasance.
The reason why “drain the swamp” resonates with so many Americans is simple: It embodies their antipathy for the bloated, out-of-touch federal government. As the 2016 election clearly demonstrated, Americans are fed up with how ineffectively the people’s representatives conduct the people’s business in Washington, DC.
“Draining the swamp,” while widely used, can mean different things to different people. In April 2017, the Frontier Lab’s Ear to the Ground Listening Project (ETTG) distributed a survey to better understand why so many people now believe the hallowed grounds of the nation’s capital have mutated into “the swamp,” and a potential threat to self-governance.
ETTG’s “goal was to measure the degree to which American voters perceive a ‘swamp problem’ exists in their political leadership, how they define that problem, and the impediments that exist to removing its influence over political culture,” according to the report.
Working with pollster McLaughlin & Associates, ETTG sought information on a wide variety of swamp topics. ETTG experts “wondered: is the Swamp concern more than rhetoric? Does it represent real angst, anger, and distrust — or is it an easily tossed-aside slogan? How do Americans of all political affiliations relate to a concept of the Swamp?”
What did the polls reveal about the state of the swamp?
The level of concern, across political ideology, is as follows:
- “More than half the country – 55% – say they are concerned about the DC Swamp.”
Who Americans hold responsible for the swamp:
- “53% of Americans disagree that their elected officials in Washington share their level of concern for threats to their freedom.”
Americans’ understanding of the swamp:
- “When asked to name the top three impediments to draining the Swamp, only Trump voters identified the media as the top obstacle. Americans of all political ideologies identified lobbyists as one of the top 3 impediments to draining the Swamp, but only liberals and moderates identified the bureaucracy in the top 3; conservatives did not.”
The swamp and self-governance:
- “Overall, voters have greater trust Trump will keep campaign promises than Republicans – 31% of all voters believe Trump will keep his campaign promises, 27% believe the Democrats will, and 6% believe the Republicans will.”
Broader context and concerns:
- “80% said they agree that American traditions of freedom and individual rights are being threatened by social movements, public bullying, and increasing political violence.”
ETTG’s conclusion is straightforward: “When only 39% of Americans feel their elected officials share their level of concern for the threats to their freedom, it’s clear that Washington is on a different page from the American people.”
This statement reflects the sad truth that our elected representatives hold their own interests (i.e., getting reelected) above the national interest. Americans now face, among many other crises, out-of-control spending, a surging national debt, and failing public schools. No wonder Congress’s approval rating is currently hovering near 18 percent!
These results create an interesting question: If Americans are so tired of the swamp, why do the same “swamp creatures” continuously manage to win elections and keep their jobs at bloated federal agencies?
One reason is politicians enjoy name greater name recognition than their challengers, not to mention a huge advantage in campaign resources.
Another, more sinister reason, is far too many politicians are desperately working with other swamp creatures, including special-interest groups, to solidify their power by bringing home the bacon for their constituents: pork-filled spending projects and other goodies doled out thanks to taxpayers and trillions of dollars of debt.
Americans are tired of the national government’s ruling class and their swampy deeds, but nothing will change unless the American people change. Voters have a responsibility to find candidates who will work to destroy the current corrupt system and replace it with one that values individual liberty and property rights. Frankly, they haven’t taken the responsibility as seriously as they need to, and time is running out.
If the people don’t soon stand up to the swamp, we’ll all surely drown in it.