Saturday, April 21, 2012

The 91 Percent

Once upon a time, I managed people. Some of them came to me with a quandary. They were being asked to do things by other people in the company, and they were having trouble saying "no," because they wanted to be team players.

To give them a hand, I reminded them of something. "I, in effect, sign your paychecks," I told them. "If people on other teams are happy with you, but I am unhappy with you, you're liable to be fired. If I'm happy with you, but people on other teams are unhappy with you, they get to go suck eggs. Any questions?"

Congress works in much the same way. There are five-hundred and thirty-eight members of Congress between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The average member of the voting public is allowed to vote for exactly three of them. Their approval (or disapproval) of the other five-hundred and thirty-five might make for interesting political chatter, but it is, in effect, immaterial. I might decide that the junior Senator from Arkansas (to select someone at random) is a complete clown who has no business being allowed within a two-hundred mile radius of important legislation. The fact that I live in Washington state, however, means that the esteemed Mr. Boozman can tell me to go soak my head. Or, if he prefers, to go suck an egg.

The fact that Congress has an approval rating lower than that of leprosy is only going to become important when that means that people are unhappy with their own elected officials. Congress only having a 9% approval rating is not really a problem for the junior Senator from Washington. But only as long as her Western Washington support base continues to back her. Let them decide that they'd be better off with a change of representation, then, and only then, will she have a problem. But it's likely that for her, the 9% approval rating of Congress is an asset. Senator Cantwell could easily decide to run against the rest of Congress, convincing us that we're better off returning her to The Other Washington. Even while we wonder aloud why the rest of the country doesn't throw their bums out.

No comments: