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Congress' unpopularity

A lot of posts are making the rounds on blogs regarding the extremely low approval rating for Congress. This one in particular from Ezra Klein is amusing. The polls are telling us something important. But I'm not sure its as simple as Congress is doing a really crappy job right now.

Though that is true. Congress is at a very partisan and deadlocked point. The Republicans in the House are really far out to the right. Thus the Democrats in the Senate won't pass their extreme bills. And the Republicans in the Senate are taking advantage of the rules of the Senate in order to prevent anything Democrats wants from getting passed. This is certainly part of why its doing a bad job and thus why people don't approve.

But Congressional approval ratings are rarely very high. I think its important to keep that context in mind because I think it helps explain whey they are so pathetically low right now. Even if the economy was growing quickly and we were clearly on track almost half the country still wouldn't approve. Why? Because almost half the country is of the opposing party and they don't like to see members of Congress from the other party doing well. When you add that constant to the bad economic situation you are almost assured nearly every Republican will disapprove of Congress.

You also have a substantial number of people disliking almost everything the minority party is doing based on their partisanship. Democrats don't like the Republicans members of Congress because they think they are blocking Democrats from solving problems. Even during good times when a person's party is doing things they aren't going to like the minority party because they are still trying to block things.

Basically, I think when people are asked if they approve of Congress they are thinking of a few things: Is the economy doing well? Are we at war, and how well is it going? Is my party in power? Is the other party keeping them from passing things? And is my party doing enough to pass things? The reason Congressional approval ratings are so low is because people have a negative response to all of those questions.