Congress Approval Lowest In Decades; Here’s Why

As the LA Times reports today, public approval of congress has sunk below that of the abysmal numbers posted by the President. Personally, I’m not shocked.

And to look into why the numbers look this bad, one need search little further than the recent vote of no confidence on Alberto Gonzales. As I pointed out last night, the dynamic surrounding the vote was simply that while there is actually a wide lack of confidence in the Attorney General, the only reason why Senate Democrats fell seven votes short of the required sixty to end cloture is simply because Republicans didn’t want to look bad politically. And worse, they wouldn’t even look bad directly so much as they just didn’t want Democrats to look good.

That’s it.

Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have also rung up some terribly low numbers, Harry Reid winning for losing at 19%, and maybe rightfully so. After years of the GOP running both the White House and Congress with an iron fist, at least they were able to put up the illusion of getting things done, and when they were not able to, they did a marvelous job of painting the picture that Democrats were being obstructionist.

But you want real obstructionism, look at the Gonzo vote. There is no public policy affected by this. Hell, this whole thing could have been finished in an hour or two with everyone voting that they did not in fact have confidence in the disgraced and abhored AG. But they didn’t. In essence, congressional Republicans are sinking the ship and making sure everyone comes down with them.

That’s part of the reason why.

Another part of why Americans aren’t so happy with congress is because of unrealistic expectations, and perhaps a lack of education on how congress and government works. I’ve done countless posts on this, too many to go back and try and reference now, but the very very short story is simply this; the make up of congress does not adequately reflect the make up of the public’s general opinion of the Iraq War. If that were true, than there would most definitely be enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, and possibly enough to overcome a veto without having to undergo a severe whip operation.

But that’s not the case, and America itself is only so unified about Iraq, standing together on the idea that we shouldn’t be there anymore, but divided in how to extricate ourselves from the war, and how long before we do so.

So essentially, beside the blatant partisanship of congress itself which is being fueled by an enbittered Republican party, there is the split dynamics of America itself to blame. I suppose some of the blame can also be pushed to Bush for spending much of the term dividing this country along political fault lines as opposed to uniting it. He definitely gets a good chunk of the responsibility for dealing the new Democratic slim majority an unwinnable hand time and again.

But this is not, as Mark Tapscott puts it, the makings of a third party in America. I’m skeptical of third parties for a variety of reasons. For one there is the practicality of them. Both the GOP and Democratic party are well established and both have systems in place that make it difficult for a third party to rise to any kind of meaningful prominence. Beside this, with Republicans and Democrats for the most part representing two sides of the center, the only room for a viable third party would be to the right or left of those we have, and I’m very wary of moving too far to either side in the political realm.

Sure, making a wide shift left may sound great to my liberal ears, but possibly the worst outcome would be a severe blowback against liberal ideals. There is a tendency in this nation to for the most part flit about the center, occasionally dipping over to one side or another, and then springing back over to the other side. Indeed, while it may not look like it on the surface, these polls kind of point to that; a blowback against the neoconservative foreign agenda, the low approval numbers for congress not because Democrats were being too liberal, but because they were not liberal enough.

Of course, the band aid solution would be to get more liberal, but think about the underlying problem; neoconservative imperialism. Had we not let things get so far right in the first place, we wouldn’t be here.

So I’m wary of trying to move too far left because if successful (which in itself would be a task) would almost inevitably result in a wide shift to the right eventually. As a result, I’m not amped on the idea of third parties, and besides, we have third parties now, and they don’t work. We have a libertarian party, and if Ron Paul’s bid for the presidency is any kind of metric, we can assume that the libertarians will not get very far. Likewise, we have a green party whose strongest candidate was Nader, the man who couldn’t even come close to double digits in a national election.

No, what is not needed is a third party. What is needed is a new president, and a congress that can learn to play nice with one another, and until you get that, you’re going to continue seeing things like this.

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