Political Analyst: ‘Our Congress Has Become Like The Old Soviet Politburo’
WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Will there ever be harmony within the halls of Congress?
A damning poll on lawmakers was released by NBC News/Wall Street Journal Thursday showing that 60 percent of Americans would replace every single member of Congress if they could, including their own representative. It was the highest-ever number recorded in the poll.
“We continue to use this number as a way to sort of understand how much revulsion there is,” Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the poll with Republican Bill McInturff, told NBC News. “We now have a new high-water mark.”
Political analyst Larry Sabato, author of the forthcoming book “The Kennedy Half Century,” told CBSDC that the problem with this Congress is that so many lawmakers in both chambers have very little interest in compromising.
“Congress has just about convinced us that a national lottery could produce 535 wiser and more reasonable individuals than its current membership,” Sabato said. “Of course, we the people elected the incumbents, though often there was little choice thanks to extreme gerrymandering.”
Sabato added: “The level of disgust with Congress is at a peak in my lifetime. Most voters really would fire the whole bunch of them if there was a mechanism to do so.”
That peak has been reached thanks to the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis. Republicans lawmakers and President Barack Obama and Democrats are only finally talking as the shutdown is days away from entering its third week.
And it’s clearly taking a toll on the American public.
“The bottom line is there’s a logjam that’s ideological and idiotic,” Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio told The Associated Press. “What’s happening is awful. What we see is an inability for people to work together and communicate. There’s no excuse for that.”
Sabato said that even though every Congress is usually unpopular, this new wave of dissent is different.
“What Congress had succeeded in doing is changing that to: People hate Congress and barely tolerate their congressman. With an institutional rating of 5 percent to 11 percent popularity (AP poll, Gallup poll), I wonder how some congressmen even show their faces publicly, outside of the D.C. bubble,” Sabato told CBSDC.
The divide is no more evident within the Republican party, as veteran lawmakers are pointing the finger at the Tea Party for creating the government shutdown.
In more than a dozen interviews with the AP, Republican leaders, officials and strategists at all levels of the party blamed Obama for the shutdown but also faulted Tea Party lawmakers in the House, who have insisted that any deal to reopen the government be contingent on stripping money for the health care law.
An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday showed why these party loyalists are so concerned: More Republicans told pollsters that the GOP is mishandling the shutdown than is handling it well. And among those who say it’s being poorly handled, twice as many Republicans say the party is not doing enough to negotiate with Obama than those who say the party is doing too much.
Party leaders interviewed said the Tea Party’s demands to defund the health care law — and the House leadership’s willingness to follow suit — were distracting from what they said is the GOP’s best strategy to recover from its 2012 losses: a focus on reducing long-term spending. They said defunding the health care law would not achieve that goal because the money was already flowing to the law.
“At the end of the day, you’re fighting legislation that’s already passed,” said former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, describing the fight to defund the health care law as a lost cause.
Despite the feelings the public has towards this Congress, Sabato believes that it’s very unlikely there will be a purge come the 2014 midterm elections.
“Most of them are in ultra-safe, super-partisan districts. They don’t have a care in the world about reelection, except possibly in the party primary,” Sabato said. “Our Congress has become like the old Soviet Politburo — absolutely secure unless there is a party purge.”
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)