January 12th, 2013

Approval of Congress is at 14%…and so…

…what does it mean?

Approval of Congress is not only low, it’s been low for a long time. Americans do not respect their own representatives, although of course they keep electing them, perhaps because voters see no other way. And curiously, they often elect the same ones, over and over, despite their dissatisfaction. It often seems to be a case of disliking all the others rather than one’s own, the one who gets the perks for the state or the district, the one who’s the familiar name.

My knee-jerk reaction is to tend to think disapproval of Congress is an okay thing, since I share it, and it reflects what I consider to be a reasonable perception of reality. But actually, when I think about it more deeply, it occurs to me that it’s not such a great thing after all. Cynicism in the public can breed apathy, a “plague on both your houses” mentality that means that only extremists (some of them holding to extremes that I don’t agree with) will vote. Of course, in an increasing number of House districts, the results are a foregone conclusion anyway, because the district has been gerrymandered so carefully that winning the primary of a certain party means that the election’s a done deal (that’s another reason for the existence of House members who get elected over and over again as long as they stay in favor with their party and therefore are not primaried, and as long as they want to keep going back to Congress).

But with Obama as president, there’s an extra added danger to this public disapproval of Congress. Obama relies on that disapproval to a certain extent; it keeps people from blaming him as much if Congress is the one at fault. Note that his approval ratings are far higher than those of Congress, although IMHO they should be far lower (I know, I know; most Democrats are never going to disapprove of him). And with Congress’s approval ratings so low, my guess is that if Obama decides to do an end run around that pesky branch of government when and if it thwarts him (gun control and debt ceiling, to take two possible examples)—well why then, many people will probably say “more power to him”!

13 Responses to “Approval of Congress is at 14%…and so…”

  1. George Pal Says:

    It seems lost upon the obtuse general public that their continual low opinion of Congress reflects more on them than the venal, imbecilic Pooters they send there. Has it really become so difficult to connect two dots?

  2. siri Says:

    I take my political debates into the movie theatre with me. Suspend disbelief? That I can do. Suspend political/cultural/religious debate? Never. It’s probably a good idea to let go once in a while, but just because that’s a good idea doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

    So, here is what I read on National Review Online before going in to see Les Miserables, and what was in my mind the whole time:

    “Les Miserables”

  3. NeoConScum Says:

    Adding to the downer of congress, we in Florida re-elected the utterly Useless Bill Nelson for the Senate and—in a vote of true brilliance—Alan Grayson is back(after a wonderful 2-yr absence)in the House.

    Lucky, Blessed us.

  4. Charles Says:

    “It often seems to be a case of disliking all the others rather than one’s own, the one who gets the perks for the state or the district.”

    I think that is it right there – other congress critters are wasteful; but our own, get us “our share” is the thinking that guides many voters.

    Many, many, far too many, times I have heard local congressman claim that we only get back X cents for every dollar that we send to Washington, and guess who is going to change that? Yep, the one who wants us to elect him, and every time voters fall for that crap, every time.

    I think it is also the mentality of why so many voters re-elected Obama and the same congressmen. The “apathy” is such that “well, they are going to spend money anyway, I might as well get my share.”

    sigh . . .

  5. Teri Pittman Says:

    Oh, I think it’s much easier than that. It’s another case of urban areas being able to outvote urban areas. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell keep getting re-elected because the Puget Sound area can outvote the rest of the state. I think that many people in the country feel like their votes do not count. I’m not sure what the solution to this is.

  6. Don Carlos Says:

    Outnumbered= Outvoted, Teri.
    The solution is one we did away with long ago: only property owners voted. We also did away with poll taxes and literacy tests.

    A modest first corrective step might be to limit voting on property tax matters to property owners only.

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    “more power to him”

    I’m sure those words are music to His considerable ears.

    A modest first corrective step might be to limit voting on property tax matters to property owners only.

    I’d propose to limit the franchise to those who pay taxes (income and/or property; sales tax doesn’t count) or have served in the military. In short, those who are or who have contributed something. Parasites need not apply.

    (I’d also for damned sure not allow felons to vote again, ever.)

  8. Mark O. Camp Iii Says:

    Are you saying that an American of one state has a strong tendency to believe that his choice of representative is good (this is a given, since each citizen is free to vote for anyone) but the choice of the citizens of the other 49 states is bad?

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    I suspect that the low opinion of Congress results from collectively bad decisions combined with the antics of certain egregious individuals, with most people never having heard of most Congressmen.

  10. parker Says:

    Too many people keep voting to send the same old same old back to DC simply because he/she brings home the bacon to the district or the state.


    He wore a hat
    He had a job and
    He brought home the bacon.

  11. Don Carlos Says:

    OB: one step at a time.
    Controlling property tax by property owners would do a great deal to hamstring the public sector and might even survive ‘constitutional’ challenge.

  12. blert Says:

    It’s the corruption of the Primaries.

    There was a time when Congressional candidates were picked by the Party — and there were no Primary Campaigns.

    During that era, turnover within the House was over 90% within two elections.

    We’ve now devolved the situation to where Congress, itself, has become a Special Interest. — As has Big Government, itself.

    It has become ‘self-aware’ in the cybernetic sense — and now turns its weapons upon the polity.

    That is all.


    ^^^^ Such was foreseen — though in the wrong context.

  13. holmes Says:

    “What we need is a strongman leader who can cut through the red tape of the bureaucracy!” And then we’re lost.

    President Obama isn’t Hugo Chavez or that sort of strongman leader. What he is is a good test run to show that it’s possible.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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