The 13 percent Congress: Representing the 1 Percent

Thirteen is not a lucky number by any measure. It never has been. It will never be. Ask any gambler who plays the horses or the slots. Ask anyone who fears a black cat crossing his or her path. Ask anyone who walks around an open ladder instead of walking under it. Superstition is powerful. It often guides people in how they lead their lives. With hardly a yelp, today the number 13 is popping up everywhere and, as usual, it is impossible to ignore, especially knowing that 13 plays a big role in the fight that will continue between the confrontational Congress and the White House.

Ratings for President Obama’s State of the Union were down 13 percent from the last State of the Union he delivered. There is no question that the 112th Congress is the worst ever. At least in my memory it has no competition for that accolade, and if things keep going the way they are now, its only competition will be when the 113th Congress comes along on January 3, 2013. There it is again, 13 attached to 2000. Thirteen is an inescapable number and concept.

Here are some statistics from a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll.  Eighty-four percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  Of Democrats, 67 percent disapprove and only 33 percent approve. That compares with 75 percent of Republicans who disapprove and only 21 percent who approve. When the Republican-dominated House of Representatives fights President Obama on everything he proposes, do most of its members who thrive in negativity heed the voters back home, or are those Republican members so arrogant and tone deaf that they have lost their hearing? They have certainly lost their bearing, at least for someone who does not think like a Republican. But here is the real problem. When added together, the figure from that poll leave us with, you got it, 13 percent in total who approve of the job Congress is doing.

I worry about that 13 percent. They must be living under a rock or maybe in a hermit’s cave if, for whatever reason, they think America is getting decent results from its elected representatives. Come out, come out wherever you are and smell the roses of reality, please. I understand, too, that the 13 percent could change. It could be higher. It will probably be lower. No matter. Today 13 percent rules the bottom of the heap.

Consider too, the haughtiness of those in Congress who ignore the 84 percent of the public who believe it is doing a terrible job. Congressional leaders on the right try to convince us they are doing what they call “the people’s work.” They try to convince us that what they are doing is in the interests of all the American people. There is such a sharp split between some American people and those who disagree with them that it makes me wonder if we should call those who disagree “the un-American people.” That idea does not resonate in my community.

Are you as tired as I am of hearing the politicians we sent to Washington claiming they are doing our work? I can tell you they are not doing my work. Did people vote our representatives in Washington into office to do their personal bidding or those of the people who voted for them? Obviously, the politicians in Washington are incapable of reading real tea leaves. Obviously rhetorical, so I will let it go with the idea that the members of Congress believe they know better than those who sent them to Washington do. If our sitting representatives believe that 13 percent is all they need to foment their kind of change, this country is in worse trouble than anyone can imagine. But it is common among elected officials everywhere for them to believe the few over the many. The authority of official office does weird things to the inside of a politician’s head. Those men and women do not care for their constituents. They only care for themselves. Power is everything for them. I believe their concept of power is rooted in a sense of righteousness, the worst quality that they bring with them into office.

I worry all the time about the 13 percent. I find those who make up the 13 percent confounding. Who are they you may ask. Rarely does a pundit consider what is going on inside the minds of the 13 percent. All I know is that they are the ones who approve the job Congress is doing. But wait. Of the 13 percent who indicate they approve Congress, only 3 percent strongly approve its work while 11 percent only approve somewhat, whatever that means. It seems those who are the 13 percent cannot quite make up their minds about how badly Congress is serving its constituencies, doing what a fumbling John Boehner and his clueless Republican minions call the work “the people sent us to Washington to do.”

Congress has a long way to go before we see the bright lights of success. If the public managed to trust and accept Congress for the work they do even more than 50 percent of the time, this country would be better off, especially if that 50 percent was center, left of center, liberal and progressive. 

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