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The 115th Congress promptly convened on Tuesday morning with news of a vote to significantly curtail the power of The Congressional Ethics Office. Some may recall that the office was originally set up in 2008, in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail. Predictably, social media reacted with outrage, and the vote was scrapped later in the morning.
Despite walking back the plan, Congress was squarely blamed for its actions. I am here to convince you that the fault for this action is entirely misplaced.
Congress isn’t to blame; we are.
Public Policy Polling released a national poll last month identifying Congress as having a 10% approval rate among 1,224 polled registered voters. Yet this past November, 97% of House incumbents were re-elected in districts all across America. Clearly, we have a dichotomy of behavior present in our electorate. Is Congress to blame for the hatred they receive? I maintain the answer is no.
In my opinion, the American voter is to blame for just about everything that is wrong with Congress. Identity politics has created a toxic environment that suppresses compromise and rewards polarizing policies. The half of American voters that even bothered to vote have essentially put in place a divided system that could be mistaken for a Hatfield and McCoys feud taking place on Congressional floors.
Congress is simply a mirror image of who we are as voters. The system we’ve enacted encourages spite, revenge, a blame mentality and a complete lack of cooperation. As a friend recently told me, "It’s not the people I vote for causing all of the problems. It’s who the rest vote for that is the problem."
The Occam’s razor explanation to this problem is that the American voter is largely stupid. Consider that they re-elect people they profess to hate and then go on social media to express outrage when these same elected representatives fail. Finally, when confronted with evidence highlighting their conflicting behavior, the solution is to blame everyone else but themselves. How convenient.
Ironically, it is often these same people that request their government to step in and make laws protecting themselves from their own foolishness. Concepts such as term limits do just that and allow voters a bailout should they not have the political will to end a representative’s career by themselves. I view term limits as a government encroachment on the free will of the people. We already have term limits in Congress every two or six years. They are called elections.
Ultimately, the fault lies in voters that are hopelessly committed to one of two teams and possesses a "not my guy" arrogance. These voters see their team as the knights in shining armor and the other team as the source of all that is evil in the Republic. This all or nothing partisan posturing produces some interesting poll results.
This failed mentality might explain why we now have a country where 52% of Democrats believe that Russia tampered with vote tallies to get Trump elected (but oddly not the popular vote that Hillary won). It also yielded a poll before the election that nearly half of Trump supporters considered Russia an ally or friend.
Let this sink in: Only half of Americans voted, and roughly half of that group, regardless of party affiliation, are functioning idiots. Term limits to protect the voter? A better solution would be to restrict who can vote, but of course, no one wants that. As a result, we’re stuck with a large portion of the electorate having the average IQ equal to that of a potted plant.
Ask yourself what would have happened if Americans elected 435 new House members and 34 new Senators in November. What would our country look like today? If your first response is to consider how this change would affect your partisan team, then you are part of the illness afflicting the average American voter. At a minimum, such a system would destroy the entrenched way of life in Washington D.C.
The absolute worst that could happen is that we would have a largely ineffective and highly unpopular ruling body mired in cyclical stalemates – just like today. Actions would be based on revenge, and legalities would be largely symbolic – just like today. Indeed the system could be broken without any hint of bipartisan lawmaking on the horizon – just like today.
The state of our Congressional representative is an indictment of our voting culture. Only half participate, and many of those that do believe everyone else is the problem. While Americans will continue to have a very low opinion of Congress, most will fail to understand that we have a voter problem, as opposed to a Congressional problem. Until this mentality is changed, the people will continue to work for the government and not the other way around.
John Mumper is married with two young daughters. He was born in Wisconsin and grew up on various types of farms throughout the state. John was educated at UW-Whitewater with degrees in Political Science and History and has traveled extensively throughout the world.
Today, he works closely with various types and sizes of manufacturers and building products suppliers as an outside salesman. In his spare time, he enjoys the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers, politics and brewing his own powerful beers.