I usually try to ignore things like political opinion polls, but the latest congressional approval ratings were all over Twitter. Apparently 83% of Americans disapprove of the job being done by Congress. If we begin with the assumption that consensus means something has gone terribly wrong, we should be very suspicious of these numbers.
Certainly it is in the benefit of the powerful for citizens to be frustrated with government in general, but why would the legislature, in particular, be singled out amongst the various branches of the federal government for scorn? To me, this is where most analysis is sloppy. Certainly disaffection amongst the majority of people allows the powerful to seek out their agenda unimpeded, but why would Congress be universally hated, while presidents tend to have higher approval in general and especially within their party? No one is afraid to call out their House representative when they vote for a bill that one disagrees with, yet Obama is allowed to get away with things that would send many Dems protesting in the streets if it was enacted by a Republican.
I’m not a historian, but it seems that these all-time lows in congressional approval ratings coincide with the increasing consolidation of power within the executive branch. Obviously W greatly expanded executive power, approved by Congress through the Patriot Act, which Obama has also seized upon, going even further than W in many (most?) cases. The legislature is, at least theoretically, the most democratic branch of the government, and, perhaps most importantly, is the most flexible (the House could theoretically be completely turned over every 2 years). By shifting power from the legislature to the executive, we are creating a government that is both less dependent on and less accountable to the will of the people. Through blaming Congress for all the government’s ills, we contribute to the ideology which allows the freedom of the powerful to be expanded while the power of the many is under attack.
What do you think dear readers?