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Barna: US may be 'beyond point of no return' if politicians don't stop restructuring system for own benefit

George Barna, founder of The Barna Group
Screenshot: Pray Vote Stand Summit 2022

A new survey reveals that most Americans reject the idea that politics is “broken” and instead believe that the political system in the United States is being “abused” by bad actors as a prominent researcher is warning that the U.S. might soon face a “point of no return” if it does not change course quickly. 

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the fifth installment of its America’s Values Study Thursday, documenting voters' attitudes about the state of American politics. This particular survey was a collaboration between the Cultural Research Center and AmericasOne, which describes itself as “a group of values-driven professionals who are looking to grow their families and businesses, and would like to share their ideas and challenges in a supportive and trusted environment.” 

The survey results show widespread agreement about the need for “a new approach to governance” among the 1,500 U.S. adults surveyed in July. A majority of respondents (71%) agreed that “our political system is not broken; it is being abused by people who are in politics for their own benefit or personal interests.” 

The same group of respondents believed that “the system still works but it requires officials who will protect our freedoms by applying constitutional principles rather than changing the system to satisfy personal preferences or ideological ideals.” Majorities of conservatives (80%), Republicans (79%), liberals (71%), independents (71%), Democrats (70%) and moderates (67%) agreed with the aforementioned statement.

The overwhelming majority of Americans (71%), conservatives (81%), Republicans (78%), independents (71%), Democrats (68%), moderates (67%) and liberals (64%) indicated agreement with a statement proclaiming that “the future success of the United States depends on restoring stability to our system, institutions, and way of life.” At the same time, the aforementioned groups stressed the need for “consistency and steadiness rather than changes that redefine the character and goals of America.”

While respondents expressed some degree of consensus in their assessment of American politics, the research determined that “voters allowed themselves to be
manipulated into one of three states of mind — indifference (the one-third of the voting public who simply accepted the situation); antagonism (some two-thirds of voters who held onto negative feelings or took negative actions against people of different political perspectives); or disconnection (the estimated 53% of the voting-eligible public who chose to sit out the election).”

George Barna, the director of research at the Cultural Research Center, reacted to the findings in written responses to The Christian Post, in which he expressed concerns about “how easily the public has been manipulated by the political class.”

“Granted, it has taken a combination of actors and efforts to disempower the public: repeated media narratives, disinformation distributed by high tech companies, radical shifts in educational content in public schools, and distractions and misdirection by politicians to get people focused on the wrong things,” he said. “The fact that Americans have become oblivious or hardened to all of these immoral practices is perhaps the most tragic and frightening transformation.”

Barna predicted that the 2024 U.S. presidential election could amount to a “point of no return” where Americans will either choose to be ruled by a government “of, by, and for the people” or a “government of elites not unlike the monarchy we left behind in England more than 200 years ago.” He told CP that “we are approaching a point at which too much freedom has been surrendered to restore those freedoms without a violent civil war — and I do not believe the American people have the heart or passion for such a conflict.”

“The next presidential election is likely to produce one of two outcomes,” he contended. “One outcome would be to vote out the elitist government approach, rejecting a government that controls most aspects of people’s lives, as the Democrats wish to do. More than seven out of 10 adults (71%) say they want less government intrusion and control over their decisions.”

On the other hand, he maintained, “the other possible outcome is to vote for candidates who intend to increase the power and authority of government, eroding individual freedoms to such an extent that they cannot be regained without a civil war.” Barna envisioned the long-term implications of such a scenario, where “neither individual officials nor government bodies will voluntarily surrender power they have gained.”

Barna lamented that based on the results of his surveys, “the public gives lip service to wanting to retain their freedoms and limit government’s intrusion into their life, but their actions betray their unwillingness to back up that view with appropriate action.” He mentioned a particular paradox where “at the same time they say they want less government intrusion, we also find three out of four adults say they want the government to solve more social problems.”

The veteran researcher cited the results of the 2022 midterm elections as evidence to back up his theory. He recalled how “at the time of the election, America featured a weak and faltering economy, a military in disarray, a broken immigration system, a politically divided population, an ineffective criminal justice system, a declining public education system, and broad and deep conviction that the nation’s political leaders were corrupt, incompetent, deceiving, and self-serving.” He characterized these developments as factors that would help Republicans.

“Despite those realities, Democrats fared reasonably well in the midterm election, retaining control of the Senate and losing fewer-than-expected seats in the House. Most of the incumbents seeking re-election won their seats back. And our surveys showed that barely more than one-third of voters made much of an effort to understand the candidates and the issues. It might not have mattered, since a majority of voters admit they really do not understand a large share of the priority issues anyway.”

Barna pointed to the results of the midterms as proof that “it was treated by voters as a business-as-usual election, while those in power have not been engaging in governance-as-usual; the Democrats, in particular, but with assistance in many cases from Republicans, are engaging in breaking and restructuring the system to their own liking and for their own benefit.” Adding that “no one is stopping them,” Barna reiterated that “if the next election fails to do so, we may well be beyond the point of no return.”

Barna cited the demonstrated rise in secularism and the increasing lack of religiosity in American culture as “huge” factors underlying Americans’ loss of confidence in national leaders, national parties and national institutions. AmericasOne Founder Marc Nuttle identified the erosion of trust in politicians and political systems as a primary takeaway of the study. 

“Without the Bible as an objective and unchanging standard of truth, we have no foundation and vision for morality,” Barna insisted. “With most Americans saying that people, not God, hold the keys to decoding morality, and most of these people naming their feelings as the source of moral wisdom, if we have a ‘bad feeling’ about a politician, policy or institution, it can instantly be deemed immoral.”

“Lacking the transparency necessary to permit rational and factual accountability, the government can be suspect based on nothing more than a bad feeling. In fact, the refusal to be transparent, and the presence of a mountain of known lies and manipulations by the government has led to such feelings.”

Barna addressed Nuttle’s proposition that “the re-emerging governing authority of the United States is families, contributing to the collective national will for the definition of government policy.” He suggested that the breakdown of the nuclear family has an impact on its status as “the re-emerging governing authority of the United States.” 

“In our nation today, we have a minority of families with a full-time, resident father present,” he explained. “Even fewer of those have a resident father who is a committed Christian. Less than 4 percent have a resident father with a biblical worldview. The focus of our families has thus shifted from honoring God and His ways to seeking happiness and comfort. The government then becomes a surrogate moral authority, passing a flood of laws that have replaced the wisdom and guidance of God as our new moral code.”

Additionally, Barna addressed previous research from the Cultural Research Center finding that Evangelicals, an important voting bloc in American politics, saw issues like inflation and rising gas prices as a larger determinant of their vote in the midterm elections as opposed to abortion. The researcher elaborated on “why abortion is overestimated in its influence upon conservative Christians.”

“First, Americans are suffering from issue fatigue. Most adults are burned out on abortion as a deciding factor in electoral politics,” he concluded. “Second, most people believe that abortion does not directly affect them. As a result, they focus on issues that are tangibly affecting them in the moment, issues like inflation, unemployment, crime, and supply chain shortages. It also appears that there is confusion about the lengths to which public policy must go to place limits on the moral choices of Americans.”

According to Barna, “We are uncertain as to whether the government should make moral boundaries regarding our sexual behaviors and choices. If such training had been achieved in homes and schools, millions of Americans would not be wrestling with such an ambiguity.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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