Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why America Really Hates Congress

As we pointed out briefly in Wednesday's edition, in the latest Congressional approval survey from reliable pollster PPP, Americans made it clear they really don't approve of Congress when they responded by giving our Congresscritters a 9% approval rating.

It's not just that Americans prefer used car salesman, root canals and colonoscopies to those elected officials we send to Washington, DC. Head lice, brussel sprouts, cockroaches, and even the totally incompetent NFL replacement refs from last fall also outrank our members of Congress.

The basic reason for our collective American distain of Congress has been made obvious in poll, after poll, after poll over the last few years. In a nutshell, most Americans from all walks of life do not understand why our members of Congress can't compromise, even on the easiest issues, let alone the difficult ones like immigration, gun violence, climate change, and our national tax and budget priorities.

That list of difficult topics may look familiar, as we noted on Wednesday a similar list that includes nearly all of President Obama's second term priorities.

The reason for our collective national anger goes deeper though than just being fed up with Congress' inability to find compromise. In a hopeful note, we've begun to see many other Americans finally seeing what we've seen for years, even as our nation finally begins to truly have a serious, deep, comprehensive debate about our national gun violence problem.

TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro noticed it too on Tuesday night, in a town hall meeting on gun violence hosted by Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson, in his native Northern California district. Thompson's town hall practically overflowed, as people on all sides of the gun violence discussion passionately voiced their opinions. Yet even with all the passion and tension, it appears that people on all sides are - mostly - listening to one another.

Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore also noticed the town hall phenomenon, and seems to have noticed the same thing we have: When the pieces of a complex issue are unknown or poorly understood - as President Obama's health care bill was back in 2009 - it's easy for those engaged in propaganda to demagogue the issue.

None of the complex issues Americans have to face in the next few years are unknown though. We've been loudly, passionately, and deeply discussing immigration, gun violence, climate change, and our national tax and budget priorities with each other over the last twelve to fifteen years. While we discussed and hashed out these issues in private small groups, both in person and online, our legislators have most often been avoiding debating and finding compromise - and avoiding their public duty to discuss them as we have.

In brief, that's why Americans are angry with Congress; we, the people, have had to do the second hardest part of our Congressperson's jobs for them, for years, while they've cowered behind their desperate chase for the money to get re-elected .

Thankfully, though, there are some signs those debates have matured Americans, to some degree.

As the town hall in the rural Napa Valley showed, unlike the angry shouting matches in 2009, Americans now seem to be able to hold intense discussions, on complex topics, without them turning into free-for-all screamfests.

Maybe that general comity is because Americans have begun to find almost all of our fellow citizens have at least one thing in common.

We all feel the same way about Congress.

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