The guys you love to hate

Congress | Janie B. Cheaney

The guys you love to hate

House Speaker John Boehner swears in members of the 113th Congress on Jan. 3.
Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

Even though everyone agrees that Congress is not a popular entity, polling companies have to keep making the case. At least Public Policy Polling (PPP) tried a more creative approach in its latest poll: Instead of a plain ol’ approval rating of Congress (which remains in the single-digit basement regardless of who’s asking), they made a list of 26 things that are not-Congress, ranging from insects to individual politicians, with lots of unpleasant experiences in between. It’s like the old vaudeville joke: “My mother-in-law is fat. How fat is she? She’s so fat that. …”

So, how much does the public hate the federal legislative branch? So much that a majority prefer head lice (at 67 percent), root canals (56 percent), used car salesmen (57 percent), France (46 percent), and Donald Trump (44 percent). The results were duly reported and a good time was had by all.

In one sense (well, many senses) Congress deserves our approbation. Both houses contain too many time-serving glad-handers who have been seduced by power and influence and never met a salary hike they didn’t like. Capital Fever is a pernicious bug that affects even the noblest public servant: Symptoms include swelling of the head, an inflamed sense of self-importance, and repetition of stale phrases. Maybe it’s the water.

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To be fair, 535 diverse individuals trying to accomplish positive action is like a similar number trying to move a football 10 yards in a single direction. The first Congress contained 91 members—awkward enough, as anyone who’s served on a city council knows. That’s by design. The idea was that a multitude of lawmakers with diverging views wouldn’t be able to whip out ill-thought laws with the speed and grasp of an anaconda. Generally a good thing, but you’d hope they could still stop an out-of-control budget before it slides into obvious disaster. That doesn’t look likely.

Still, when the polled public points a finger at Congress, three fingers are pointing in the opposite direction. PPP also reported that some items on their list were less popular than Congress, such as Lindsay Lohan, telemarketers, the Kardashians, and North Korea. I’m glad to see North Korea get a bad rap, along with Communism, but if Lohan and the Kardashians are so loathed, why are they worth millions? And if Americans are so disgruntled with Congress, why do they keep electing the same congresspersons?

All the poll represents is a not-cool list: John Edwards, Lindsay and Kim and the 112th Gang of Incompetents. Christians don’t need to join this chorus. Democracy is indeed the worst form of government—except for all the rest (to paraphrase Winston Churchill)—and providentially, we live under a government that still allows us a little say. The PPP results, presented with a smirk, reveal the kind of semi-hostile indifference that created the old-boys club we call Congress in the first place. And that body includes some genuine public servants making the best of a thankless job. Rather than rolling our eyes we could start take our nation seriously, which includes taking the U.S. Congress seriously, which means holding them accountable. Despising them is futile.

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