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July 16, 3:30 AM EST

Then Why Do We Keep Electing Them?

Congressional approval is now at an all-time low of 9%.  Over 80% of Americans believe that members of Congress care more about advancing their own careers than helping their constituents.  Congress doesn’t pass any good legislation any more, that might actually benefit the nation.  Instead, its members spend all of their time and energy obstructing the “bad legislation” proposed by the other side, to keep it from becoming law.  
 
Both unemployment and home foreclosures are at record levels, and the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, while Congressional members exhaust themselves arguing over whether the debt ceiling should be raised or gays should be allowed marriage equality.  Our current crop of politicians doesn’t aspire to anything more substantive than finding an issue that can be demagogued to enough people to secure his or her election or re-election.  The adage that all politics is local has never been more accurate.  Congress has been completely discredited as an institution.

So why don’t we elect representatives who will end all of the known abuses of power, and pass true campaign finance reform, term limits, lobbying reforms and earmark reforms?  Because there is a terrible disconnect in this country between overall Congressional approval and the approval of individual representatives.  While most of the population agrees that virtually no Congressman deserves re-election, virtually all of them are nevertheless re-elected.  Individual representatives are not being held accountable for their role in Congress’ dismal collective performance.  There is a national paradox that allows persistent Congressional disapproval data to repeatedly evaporate in election results.

How is it possible for Congress as an institution to receive such staggering low approval from the population at large, while individual members of Congress receive such breathtakingly high approval from their constituents?  It is because Congress has become so internally polarized that it is easy for each individual representative to explain to his own supporters why he should not be personally blamed for the collective ineptitude of the body as a whole.  Congress has become so divisive and decentralized that each individual representative has a wide variety of fellow Congressmen to vilify to his supporters back home as the real problem.

We know our political system is broken, but every time we send someone to fix it, they immediately become part of the problem we sent them there to fix.  We re-elect them for the same reason.  Members of Congress can get elected, and then repeatedly re-elected, by running against Congress.  A representative can urge his voters to send him back time after time so that he can keep working to fix the broken system.

So, how do we really fix it?  It’s easy.  We just don’t do it.  We vote out every single incumbent and elect an entirely clean slate of representatives.  If they pass constructive legislation, that actually benefits the nation, they get re-elected.  If they continue to do nothing but take turns blocking legislation, while trying to look busy arguing about a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning, then we vote in a new slate of representatives.  Their collective survival will be dependent upon their ability to cooperate with one another and actually accomplish what they were sent there to do.  We simply keep replacing Congress en masse until it realizes that it will continue to represent us only so long as it continues to represent us.

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