Fed up with Congress?

Better look in the mirror — we're the ones who sent polarized politicians to Washington
Associated Press
Oct 20, 2013

Hey, fed-up Americans, here's a scary thought after the dispiriting spectacle of the government shutdown: You're the ones who sent these members of Congress to Washington, and they really are a reflection of you.

For all the complaints about Washington, it was American groupthink that produced divided government in the past two elections and a Congress that has been tied in knots lately.

John Adams, who would become the country's second president, wrote in 1776 that legislators "should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large."

More than 200 years later, members of the current entangled House "are probably a very accurate reflection of how their constituents feel," says Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist.

Not that people are ready to take ownership of the failings of their representatives.

"Of course not," says Baker. "It's a completely dissociative view of American politics — that somehow there are these grasping, corrupt, tone-deaf politicians in Washington who are totally unconnected to the caring and attentive, compassionate person" that an individual voter has elected to Congress.

With the government now powering back up to full speed and the next budget crisis pushed off at least until January, there is no shortage of speculation about whether voters will retaliate in the 2014 elections against lawmakers for this fall's budget impasse. A lot depends on how the next year goes.

President Barack Obama is expressing hope that the same spirit that ultimately produced a deal to end the shutdown and avert default will allow the country to make progress on other issues such as improving the immigration system.

"If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done," Obama said Thursday.

But the president acknowledged difficulties ahead, what with the challenges of divided government and pressures from the political extremes.

"And," Obama added, "let's face it. The American people don't see every issue the same way."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pledged to continue GOP efforts to "stop the train wreck" that he calls the president's health law.

For now at least, public sentiment toward Obama, congressional leaders and Congress in general is grim.

Nearly three-quarters of voters want to see most members of Congress defeated, a much higher level than at the same point prior to the 2006 and 2010 elections in which control of the House changed hands, according to the Pew Research Center. Also, Pew reports, the share of voters who want to see their own representative replaced is as high as it's been in two decades, at 38 percent.

Republican pollster David Winston says it's particularly notable that voters of all stripes are increasingly saying that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, 22 percent of those surveyed said the country was heading in the right direction and 78 percent said the wrong direction. That's a pretty stark change from shortly after Obama's re-election last fall, when 42 percent said right direction and 50 percent said wrong direction.

"One of the things that tells you is that the public is paying very close attention," says Winston. "The challenge for everybody — this is true for both parties — is to understand that every word they're saying is being listened to closely."

Yet for all of the public's grousing about polarized politicians, the voters themselves are deeply divided, too. They sort themselves geographically and ideologically. Congressional district boundaries are drawn to accentuate those political divisions.

When legislators answer to such solidly Republican or Democratic constituencies, they are more prone to engage in divisive antics such as those seen in recent weeks.

"We really are a red and blue nation," says Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann. "We separate ourselves. We tend to associate with people who think like we do."

The result, he says, is "more and more separation of Democrats and Republicans with distinctive sets of values and world views and then an attachment — almost a tribalistic attachment — to party that leads them to accept whatever the party position seems to be."

Winston thinks voters still have an expectation, though, that their legislators can find a way to both represent their constituents' views and effectively govern.

"It's not so much polarization, it's just that there are real differences of opinion," he says. "How do you work through that and create policy that both sides feel is moving things forward?"

Democratic pollster Peter Hart, too, thinks people still expect their legislators to find constructive solutions to the country's problems. He expects them to make that clear in the 2014 elections.

Says Hart: "My guess is that overall, there will be more change, more volatility, because this manufactured crisis made voters lose faith in the system and recognize that it just did not have to happen."

 

Comments

Contango

Pres. Obama:

"Let's face it. The American people don't see every issue the same way."

Wow! What a profound grasp of the glaringly obvious.

American politics can be acrimonious? Who knew?

He probably only has his college records sealed because he doesn't want to embarrass us by revealing what a genius he 'really' is.

Centauri

"You're the ones who sent these members of Congress to Washington, and they really are a reflection of you."

yedr556's picture
yedr556

Google is paying 80$ per hour! Just work for few hours & spend more time with friends and family. Yesterday I bought a top of the range Lancia after having made $9458 this month. Its the most-financialy rewarding I've had. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out http://ow.ly/pAu07

2cents

"wrote in 1776 that legislators "should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large."

The end result of the 2012 election was 51% to 47%, this was no landslide so it shows the people in this country are almost equally divided. I guess you can expect what is going on in DC.

The Big Dog's back

Funny when they thought Rmoney was going to barely win, they were calling it a landslide.

deertracker

All the money spent to defeat the President and they still only got 47%! What a waste!

Smcc Student

Actually, the R's only spent 6.3 million dollars more than the D's. http://elections.nytimes.com/201...

shucks

They spent more then , didn't they ? And the Dems spent less and won.

AJ Oliver

This article is deeply disengenuous in promoting the "false equivalence" meme. It carefully refrains from noting that the American people blame the GOP & Teabaggers FAR more than they do the dems - as well they should. That omission by AP just has to be deliberate. And in arguing that "we" sent the reps to Congress, the article avoids the issue of unfettered money in elections caused by the Supreme Court's Citizens United and other decisions. Further, the ideological gerrymandering has been done by the GOP (as in Ohio), not the Dems to any degree. Finally, only the GOP is willing to deliberately harm the country (costing tens of billions and hundreds of thousands of jobs) by threatening default since 2011. The REAL problem is that the voters have sent to Washington people whose goal is to destroy the government. I hope the voters have learned their lesson !! And, you really cannot trust AP.

The Big Dog's back

The right wingnuts always try to equivocate the Dems and Repubs. The Repubs want legislation that hurts people while the Dems want legislation to help people. Only in a right wingnut mind. It's about time the far right media moves back to the center.

2cents

http://www.businessinsider.com/m...

And the left nuts seem to be taking a hit for their extremist news creating rather than reporting!

coasterfan

Wow, AJ and Bog Dog hit the nail right on the head. 100% agree.

Contango

Re: "hit the nail right on the head."

Pres. Obama, Feb, 5, 2008:

"We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Keep waitin' and keep seekin', 'cause not everyone is EVER gonna agree with you and your love of Statism.

Better be funding for gulags and re-education camps.

Licorice Schtick

As usual, if you don't agree with Contango, you're a commie

thinkagain

Brutus – Your sesquipedalian usage of the word equivocate has triggered an attack of my hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. What happened, someone bought you a dictionary?

Truth2u

just like a Dog in thinking that constantly being fed 'treats' from others labors is smart, DUH!

Amazing how you equate stealing from others as being helpful to those receiving the booty.

Smcc Student

@BIGDOG

Over the past two years this blog has made my blood boil over reading these name calling comments made by everyone. They are not wingnuts.. Try to be respectful here. That goes for all of the other bloggers on this site, im not trying to sound bias.

Finally, to answer your ignorant assumption. You are incorrect. We Repubs are not trying to hurt anyone. We are trying to protect the American people from a law that is very costly. This law really hurts small business as well.

Further more, I do support health care. BUT I do not support Obama-Care. I do not think that it is feasible for the common man to be able to afford this, especially with rising premiums. We need to balance the budget before we consider health care. No where in the constitution does it say that "Gov. has to supply universal health care". It is not their duty. Cut Spending, cut taxes for small business, reform welfare, reform SS, call home the troops, and fix our domestic problems before going to other countries and attempting to solve theirs.

The Big Dog's back

So you're a Repub with Repub ideas. I disagree.

Contango

Re: "The REAL problem is that the voters have sent to Washington people whose goal is to destroy the government."

So the antithesis of this statement would be:

“The REAL problem is that the voters have sent to Washington people whose goal is to” expand the intrusiveness and onerousness of the government.

Let us remember together the words from 2003 of St. Hillary:

"I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration."

coasterfan

Wasn't it Republicans who made Our government bigger by adding the new, huge Dept. of Homeland Security during the Bush Administration? Isn't the steadily increasing Defense Budget, advocated by Republicans, the best example of Big Government? The answer to both questions is "Yes".

It turns out that the GOP is only against "big government" when it means providing funding for things they don't support. Hypocrisy, thy name is Grand Old Party.

Contango

Re: "adding the new, huge Dept. of Homeland Security."

And no Dems supported the above?

Instead, Pres. Obama has expanded it and the NDAA, while publicly defending the onerous NSA.

Pot, kettle, black.

The Big Dog's back

So if one Dem votes for a bad Repub idea it's the Dem's fault when it turns to sheet? Really?

Truth2u

and wasn't it Obama that increased it and is still increasing it, Google NSA and look at what they built and how much they have spent. Obama has added 10's of thousands of IRS agents, Homeland security agents etc etc. Look at Port CLinton, built under Obama and half those workers I see playing games in their cars, some parked in that so dangerous Huron park waiting for a ship load of terrorists to come in and blow up the town ! Wow, I feel so much safer when I see them sitting in their new SUV's that Obama bought them.

Dr. Information

coasterfan owned again. Dude, are you tired of being owned yet. Do some research first.

coasterfan

My point was that Democrats don't deny that we occasionally make government bigger. We just think it's silly for conservatives to complain about it, since they quite obviously are just as guilty.

When a person trapped inside the GOP bubble of alternate reality thinks I lost an argument, I take that a confirmation that I am on the right track.

Shouldn't your name be Dr. MisInformation?

shucks

That's what I call him , Miss Information.

deertracker

Agreed!

SamAdams

The government SHOULD be destroyed, at least large parts of it. If we got rid of every extraneous (read "not the constitutional purview of government") program, we wouldn't have a debt. We'd have a hefty national surplus.

Does the GOP have all the answers? It used to be closer, but even years ago, it didn't. Do the Dems have the answers? Not unless the question is "how do we make government as big, as expensive, and as intrusive as possible?"

The only way to fix ANYthing is to stop demanding government fix EVERYthing. It hasn't. It won't. And it CAN'T.

Traditional meme: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Government meme: "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."

The Big Dog's back

The Repub meme is that all politicians are the same, and since they all are the same, vote Repubs in.

Truth2u

Dog, it was the Democrats that brought the blacks into this country, sold them into slavery, BOUGHT them at the slave market, started the KKK and you have the nerve to say the Democrats try to help others. Martin Luther King Jr knew better than that and stated that he could never vote for the Democratic ticket. You probably make excuses for Senator Byrd who was a high ranking member of the KKK!
Your either ignorant of these things or are seriously missing some essential necessities upstairs, or you just like receiving stolen goods in the form of taxation of others so you personally don't have to work.

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