With the collapse of deficit reduction “supercommittee”, once again the inestimable Congress of the United States has failed to do, well, anything at all. Since their collective approval rating hovers around 9%, you’d think that almost every member of the House and 1/3 of the members of the Senate would be looking for work after the next election. The fact is that over the last twenty years, House members seeking reelection are victorious well over 90% of the time. For their re-electable colleagues in the Senate, that number is closer to 80%. Still better odds than you’ll ever get in Vegas (unless you’re the house, of course). Using some roughly accurate statistics, that’s a long way of saying that unless something dramatic changes between now and the election, the Congress we have now is largely going to be the Congress we have after the election. If that doesn’t make you queasy, you’re probably not paying much attention.
Partisans on the left and the right will tell you that this is the perfect reason we need term limits imposed on elected officials. I submit that it’s not so much an issue of term limits being needed as it is a clear message about how engaged electorate is. Cycle after cycle, a small percentage of eligible voters go to the polls and select the guy whose name they’ve heard before, or the one who has the prettiest yard signs, or the one who had the nicest looking piece of direct mail. In doing that, the voters just don’t stop to ask if their particular senator or representative is part of the problem. If that person is currently serving, here’s a hint: He or she is the problem and needs to be replaced. Two years from now, if that new individual has become part of the problem, they need to be replaced. And again until voters stumble on someone responsive to the needs of the country and who’s putting national priorities above regional benefits or party politics.
Until that happens, we’re going to continue to get the kind of government we deserve. That is to say a government that is hopelessly dysfunctional. Elections are won based on who shows up. If all most people do is bitch and complain and let the same 20% who always show up to vote have their way, well, we’ll get the same level dysfunction we’ve all come to know and loathe. If you’re pissed off, if you want something different then it’s on you to get educated, make smart decisions, and actually go to your polling place. If you can’t be bothered to do even that much, then you’re a bigger part of the problem then the asshats we keep electing.