Disapproval with Congress Begins and Ends in the Home
One has to wonder about the purpose behind the consistent polling asking Americans about overall trust in their elected leaders. It seems to be a futile endeavor analogous to a game of limbo where the pollsters are asking “HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?” set to a crazy mambo beat. The only interesting tidbit to arise from these polls is that there are still some potential voters who approve of congress. This number tends toward the low double digits but, nevertheless, what is it that these optimists find so commendable about our feckless “leaders”?
As to the overall approval numbers, the mystery remains. I gather that some people, basking in the proverbial bliss of ignorance, agree with very specific, partisan driven actions taken by one party that promotes an ideology similar to their own. Perhaps we have found that 15% of people have the inability to say no. Either way, it is an open ended mystery that remains.
Specific to the approval numbers (or rather mass disapproval) is the view that voters hold of individual representatives versus the congress as a whole. Congressional incumbents are consistently reelected. Elections are held every two years reassuring these pillars of society, on a regular recurring basis, that their leadership is invaluable and that it is everyone else in congress that is the problem. How can it be personal if a senator or representative was just reelected to a 36th term in office?
Bottom line is that voters approve of the individual reps from the location in which they reside, as long as those reps belong to the appropriate political party and share the appropriate positions on the appropriate issues. This is the case in the vast majority of districts represented in congress. Due to various redistricting methods by both parties, few house districts are actually competitive in the sense that both parties must fight for votes. Democrats have their urban strongholds and republicans have the dependable rural bastions and/or suburbs. If the voters in a particular area are dominated by either conservatives or liberals then there is no doubt as to the predictability of the outcome in said location come election day. And to a great extent, this is as it should be. People deserve to be represented by those who reflect their own ideals.
The other side is, when you have repeatedly voted in members of congress who supposedly act upon certain ideals, at what point do those ideals become the source of disapproval? Is it the person or ideology? The answer is neither in the case of present day politics. It is the other guy and the other ideology that is the source of all discord and misery. This is how incumbents maintain a 90%+ reelection rate and yet congress maintains an approval rating of 15%. Voters are convinced that responsibility and fault lie within the distant capital and that the votes that they continue to cast represent a rebellion against the grain rather than business as usual.
As long as disinterest in both local and national elections continues, due to feelings of frustration and general impotence, whoever goes to Washington will do what they do as they have always done. Political candidates must be compelled to communicate to voters about why those voters should care about political candidates and the elections in which they run. It is then up to the voters to find those people who will act according to the constitutional principles by which they are limited and charged, and encourage them to run for political office. Such candidates will be able to challenge any dysfunctional incumbents or at least compel the sitting representatives to justify their continued existence as representatives. The good ones will be able to provide a record of service and place it before the voters come election day.
Reflect (or discover for the first time ever) upon who represents your area. Your district, state, school board, dog catcher etc. Empower yourself with the knowledge that you control whether or not these people continue to work for you, and for the rest of us. In some cases, the tough reality is that the problem lies in the disengagement that starts at home. It has festered for too long. The beauty here is that such decisions need not be fatal. Change, real change can occur with new elections.
But nothing changes if nothing changes.