An Opinion Written By Marcus Dell’Artino
One of our pollsters released a long slide deck to the public recently, but it is one slide that has been making the rounds on the internet. The slide looks historically at the ideological leanings of the members of the U.S. Congress based upon their ratings from National Journal Vote Rankings.
There it is in red, white and blue, the answers to all your questions. Why can’t Congress get anything done? Why does the Country seem so ideologically divided? Where is the political middle? The days of leaders like Minority Leader Bob Michael, Speaker Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan are long gone and we are left with a “my way or the highway” mentality on BOTH sides of the aisle.
So what caused it? Was it a lack of candidates? Lack of voter participation? Redistricting of congressional districts? Or everyone’s favorite fall guy, “special interests”? And the answer is all of the above. You can’t blame too many rational people for not running for public office anymore. Look at what happens the second they think about running for office. The lure of serving in the public interest for short term is outweighed by the family needs. The mudslinging, endless hours, and zero private life for you or your family leave a vacuum filled by those with endless egos convinced nobody is going to know about their late night trysts.
The United States has never had the greatest voter turnout compared to other democracies but has shown a small comeback in recent elections. But most scientists are studying Presidential election years. It is the non-presidential years we should be concerned about. But both of those pale in comparison to primary elections when each party picks their candidate. Considering Arizona was doing well in the last primary elections at only about 30% voter turnout.
Redistricting and campaign finance changes generally fall into the same category. The more “great idea” changes you add, the worse it gets. The system is somewhat like mother nature. The more you tinker with it, the worse it may become. For instance, before “redistricting commissions” state representatives and senators would go down into a basement room and hash out district lines between themselves. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it did build relationships, some trust, and some bipartisanship. After all, if you are going to move 500 republican voters into a moderately democrat district, there has to be some give and take, right?
Special interests? Everyone is part of them, they just don’t know it. If you drink Coke or Pepsi you are funding the National Beverage Association. I can go on with a 100 of these, but the most troubling has become the 24 hour news cycle and social media. The constant push to get out new and controversial topics has caused politicians and consultants to push the extremes for outlandish headlines. Remember balloon boy whose parents convinced the world their son flew away in a balloon only to later admit they made the whole story up for media attention? We don’t have to look far to find a political example. America’s favorite Sheriff, Joe Arpaio is constantly trying to grab headlines. First it was tent city, then pink underwear and now we serve inmates green baloney. Did you know in the rush to be first, both CNN and FOX news announced that the individual mandate for the Affordable Healthcare Act was unconstitutional? The effect? A more skeptical, electorate fed up with it all.
So what’s the solution? Maybe it’s time to look at what the rest of America does and apply it to Congress. You don’t get paid if you don’t work. Capitalism at the Nation’s Capitol, what a novel idea. If you can’t pass a budget then no paycheck for members of Congress and their staff. That might get things moving again. Maybe that will give Congress the idea that working together isn’t such a bad idea.