At present, Congress has an approval rating of 14 percent. The truly concerning thing about this statistic is that it’s not that low because Americans disagree with the laws Congress is passing. They’re angry that Congress isn’t passing any laws at all.
Americans are increasingly doubtful that Congress is a functional institution. The 112th Congress, which is the last fully completed Congress, was the least productive in history. The 113th is currently on track to beat that. Congressional productivity is measured based on the number of bills passed in a session. This Congress is simply unable to function.
Extreme and excessive partisanship in Washington is preventing not only beneficial legislation from getting passed, but really any legislation at all. Instead of focusing on the needs of the nation, America’s representatives are struggling with getting basic legislation with years of precedent passed. For example, this summer’s Farm Bill eventually passed after initially being shot down, but the passed form consisted of 20 percent of the funding of the original bill. America’s legislators were not particularly good at budgeting, but rather they refused to include Food Stamp funding in a bill that is and has been primarily focused on Food Stamp funding for the last 40 years.
Congress consists of people who are elected to represent the people of the country, and in that representation to bring about legislation that benefits the people of the country. Congress is divided because the country is divided. The American people have shifted more and more toward being an “us and them” body. While politics is inherently “us and them”, it’s gotten out of hand. It’s not that the American people are just
disagreeing about how facts ought to be interpreted; it’s that they’re disagreeing about basic facts.
Differing views of how the country and the world is functioning leads to dialogue. However, at this point in time, the dialogue isn’t productive. It’s loud and it’s opinionated, but it’s not getting anything done.
For Congress to change, the American people need to change. At present, we have a culture of adamant dedication to opinions not based on reason or empirical rationale. This needs to cede to a culture of education on the issues and agreement based in logic. Instead of using the phrase “I hate politics” as an excuse to remain uneducated on the issues, the American people must be responsible for educating themselves on current events and why they are happening.
An educated electorate is much better able to put into office representatives who can come to agreements based on facts and pragmatism. Right now, many members of Congress are elected based not on their actual understandings of what’s best for the country, but instead on their ability to doggedly argue ideologies that sound nice to the American people.
The United States has a dysfunctional Congress because it has a dysfunctional people. The American people are leaning farther away from fact than before, and the world is seeing the results in an embarrassing track record for Congress. The blame, however, needs to shift more toward those who are putting this set of representatives in office. Without a move toward true bipartisanship and agreement based on fact, the American people can expect a continuance of ineffective behavior by the officeholders in whom they have placed their trust.