According to Gallup polls released this month, Americans approval of the U.S. Congress has dropped to a historic low of 10 percent. Its hard to believe a nation would allow itself to be ruled by a body that it disapproves of so strongly, but as yet, there have been no street protests or riots as we have seen in other countries that have so dramatically lost faith in their governments.
Perhaps we put up with them because our dislike of Congress is only intense when we consider it in its impersonal, corporate form, and not as a group of men and women who we elect, and often continue to reelect.
Check the approval rating for an individual representative or senator on their home ground and I guarantee you the number will almost always be well above 10 percent.
Congress is inept, we seem to think, but our guy is one of the good ones. Maybe thats because our guy knows whats important to the people he represents, and is good at giving the appearance that those things are important to him, too.
Would you like to represent Houston County in Washington, D.C.? Make sure youre a Republican, are against abortion and support gun rights and the military. Its also good idea to let everyone know how much you love Jesus.
If you were running for Congress in, say, the San Francisco area, youd probably want to have an entirely different set of principles if you want to have a chance of winning there. So what we end up with is a big group of men and women who come in with very different ideas about what government should be doing.
Somehow, enough of them have to come together and agree on legislation if anything is ever going to get done. If they cant do that, well, we end up with a Congress that is unable to do very basic things a legislative body must do, like pass a budget that doesnt bankrupt the country. Which is, of course, exactly where we are today, and that explains why most of us have a very dim view of that particular branch of government.
It seems to be broken beyond repair. One reason why Congress ability to get anything done seems to have degenerated so badly is that compromise has become such a dirty word in our country. We would rather support candidates who promise to stand on their principles. which ends up being another way to say they will refuse to compromise at all, over anything. In such an environment, failure to get anything done becomes not just a likely outcome, but an inevitable one.
Just look at how much flack our own Sen. Saxby Chambliss has taken for trying to work with Democrats to come up with a budget that could address our deficit problem. He finally decided hes had enough of all the partisanship and is not running for re-election again. You can be sure that the Republican who takes his place will be more stridently partisan, i.e., a real conservative who wouldnt even consider reaching across the aisle to work with those miserable low-lifes in the other party.
Im not saying that having convictions and standing up for them is a bad thing. But too much of anything to the exclusion of all other considerations can be bad. And you can ensure failure of any group of people who are gathered together to make decisions if you have to always be right and you refuse to consider anyone elses point of view.
When we look at that 10 percent approval rating weve given Congress, Im afraid we must all pat ourselves on the back for the role we played in that dubious achievement. By rewarding men and women who refuse to compromise with the other party and by electing and reelecting them, weve all helped to create a Congress that does nothing but snipe at the other side while they puff out their chest and congratulate themselves for upholding their principles.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.