No one in this country would be shocked by the statement that Congress is unpopular.
In fact that concept has become so common to the average American, that it has now almost been accepted as the norm. As the year draws to an end, the congressional approval rating currently sits at or around 9%. That means that the body of the United States government that allegedly represents the will of the people and is actually responsible for drafting our nation’s laws, is currently disapproved of by 91% of the populace.
Logic would dictate that with a statistic like this — as the nation goes into a mid-term election in 2014 — those members currently serving might be out of a job come next November.
That’s what logic would dictate, and that’s what ideally we would expect and hope for had our nation the representative government we like to believe it has. The sad truth of the matter is that the 2014 midterm elections will most likely end like the congressional elections did in 2012: with a large number of incumbents reelected and several months later a large number of citizens upset when they realize that the elections had no effect on the corruption or gridlock in Washington.
During the 2012 election, Congress had around a 15% approval rating — higher than the current approval rating but still incredibly low all the same. Even with such a small percentage of American people approving of Congress’ efforts, 90% of incumbents were reelected to their same office. How can this be?
The sad and simple truth of the matter is that the United States; the beacon of democracy, the shining city on the hill, the republic that was founded upon revolutionary fervor and enlightenment ideology, has succumb to the disease of apathy.
The average voter does not concern themselves with policy, voting records, or even platform. They’d rather vote for the devil that they know as opposed to the devil that they don’t. It is easier to vote for the same politician over and over because it requires little thought, very little research, and typically there is a sense of familiarity with that politician.
Likewise, that politician knows their constituency. They know the voters’ beliefs and their fears, and they exploit them to ensure that their position in society remains unchanged. Then, once the incumbents are reelected and they return to Washington, they give a voice not to their constituency or to the majority of United States but rather the national parties to which they belong or to the special interests which bend the ear which help to make sure they get elected in the first place.
Such conduct; in the opinions of most Americans, is repugnant, duplicitous, and inherently undemocratic. It is for this reason that many Americans — 75% according Gallup polls — support imposing term limits on Congress.
There are a number of reasons why apathy has taken hold of our society, some of which term limits would fix and some of which would still exist even if term limits were enforced and current leadership was thrown out. Recent polls show that 47% of Americans recognize themselves as Independents.
Nearly half of the United States has no great loyalty or admiration for either political party. With that being said; however, there are no independents currently serving in the House of Representatives and there are only two independents in the Senate. Those currently serving are almost bound by obligation to vote along party lines. Under this system of party discipline many Americans feel that their voice is not heard in government. Americans feel that their votes do not count, and that no matter who wins things will never improve.
While imposing term limits would not necessarily fix the problems associated with money in politics, it will help to fight the influence money has on our political system. After all, if a member of congress knew that they would not be able to run again, there would be nothing with which party leaders or special interests could hold over their heads. What’s more, a special interest will be far less likely to dump money into someone’s campaign if from the start it is known that the member will serve only a brief period of time.
All that being said, it must be understood that term limits will not necessarily bring about some magical or revolutionary change in our nation. After all, no single policy change can solve all the problems in a society. At that same time, however, we must recognize that the policies our nation needs and the reforms we must make to solve our problems will never come about if our nation remains bound to the same leaders, ideas, and dogma which have “governed” our nation for the past few decades.
Our legislative branch, at present, serves only to rehash the same ideas and the same solutions which party and congressional leadership have been hocking since they first arrived in our nation’s capital. Should the issue of incumbent domination continue unchecked, then it is unlikely that truly different and fresh perspectives will be heard anytime soon coming out of either houses of Congress.
New ideas are required in order to advance and strengthen our nation, and these new ideas will only come about if there is new leadership in place to advance them. If voting alone does not insure the rise of new leadership, then it is necessary to reform the law in such a way to insure constant turn over in Congress.
As a nation the people of the United States have continued making the same decision of leadership over and over again each time expecting a different outcome — an action, which anyone who is paying attention can tell you, is the textbook definition of insanity. The United States, in my opinion, has the potential to enter a golden era in which it truly realizes its potential. But this potential will never be reached if governance remains in the hands of those more interested in keeping their job then strengthening the republic.
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