by Bill Golden
Polling and surveys have long shown that Americans aren’t happy with Congress.
Not even those Americans whose party controls Congress are often happy.
Part of that probably comes down to getting 535 folks to actually put some plan or proposal on the table for consideration, and which also has a chance to be passed — or more recently: has a chance to embarrass the other party if passed.
My position has long been that Congress is more beholden to protecting power and following the party line than it is in listening to the folks back home. They are busy following the party line to protect power and prerogative and positioning.
By voting the party line I mean that if they vote yea or nay they usually vote 90-95% or even higher the same way that other congressional members of their party vote. This is a lockstep mentality that keeps the other party from voting more independently because if they don’t vote accordingly then your block vote may cancel out their block vote.
You can easily track how your congressional representative or senator vote via the Washington Post’s vote tracker.
Amazingly members of both parties vote overwhelming the party line. Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul are among the very few that do not play that game but statistically they are blips in the big picture.
But is there a party line that our representatives actually line up behind and support? I believe that yes is the correct answer.
Here is my definition of a party line:
A party line is the focused political prioritization of objectives, methods, calculations and tradeoffs necessary to accomplish the legislative success of agenda items at the national level.
Your legislators do not represent you before Congress so much as they represent you to their parties — and try to get their parties to listen before there is any chance of getting issues out for larger consideration.
If all politics are local, for Congress to be seen as successful (via its approval rating) then it needs to be able to relate national accomplishments as having value at the local level. Most Americans just don’t see it. Major polls show that 70-76% of Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing. Democrats are even more disapproving of the job being done by Congress than are Republicans: 73% Democrats and 61% of Republicans (June 2011).
Perhaps part of our problem is that following the party line to get those deals, to buy those votes, so that all 535 members of Congress have their bag of goodies to take back home … that after all of that work most folks just no longer see the value … or the timely return of results on what interests them: issues and solutions.
Suggestions to fix this mess?