Is It Insanity That Drives Congressional Approval Ratings?

The present approval rating of Congress, especially the House of Representatives, has a well-deserved abysmal approval rating with the American public. For those who think this may be a modern phenomenon, let’s take a trip back in time to the 1840s. At that time, classic American poet, Walt Whitman, was a journalist in New York City and Brooklyn. He described that era’s politicians as, “limber tongued lawyers, very fluent but empty, feeble old men, professional politicians, dandies, and dyspeptics,” as well as “robbers, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail-riflers, slave catchers, body snatchers, duelists, monte-dealers, scarred inside with the vile disorder, and gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people’s money and the harlot’s money twisted together.”

Looking beyond the colorful historical rhetoric and to the present approval rating of Congress, Congress’s positive approval rating seems to be down to friends, family, and frequent users of ecstasy. The irony is that historically, over 90% of Congress members will be re-elected. Einstein is famously remembered for having said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result.

No matter which rambling senior citizen is our next President, he may well be stuck with a Congress which hauntingly reminds one of Walt Whitman’s acerbic description. We, as citizens, have largely neglected to involve ourselves in the actual candidate selection process. Yes, political involvement is distasteful. Yes, we are all busy. If we are living in a free country and being governed by fools, what does that make us?

To quote a more recent poet, Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, “If you’ve time, is the U.S. worth saving?” If not us, who? If not now, when? America’s blessings would be greatly enhanced by more citizen effort. We have a right to whine, but how effective is it? The old maxim that we need more perspiration than inspiration still makes sense.

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Jim Maxson

Mr. Maxson is a retired Minot attorney, former ND State Senator representing Minot's 3rd District from 1986-1994, and former ND Democratic National Committeeman from 2000-2008. He speaks two languages, English and Metaphor, and is cursed by a long memory.

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