Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How to make our politicians lovable again

by Tyler Casey

It’s been a while since the most recent midterm elections, and a lot has happened since. The new season of “The Wire” ended, Michael Richards turned out to be a huge racist and Milwaukee somehow survived “Snowpacolypse ‘06” (thanks WTMJ.) But while all this was happening, our elected officials somehow got worse.

At least that’s what people are saying, according to the latest survey from the Rasmussen Reports that says that only 11 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the United States Congress. What is surprising about this isn’t the fact that most Americans find elected officials to be somewhere between panhandlers and burger flippers on the reliability scale.

No, what’s most surprising is that apparently 15 percent of people surveyed had a favorable opinion of Congress the day of the elections. And 13 percent had a favorable opinion two weeks ago.

What possibly could have happened since Election Day to make politicians less trustworthy than they already were? The Mark Foley scandal is yesterday’s news by this point. The bitter and negative attack ads that people say they hate so much that flood our airwaves every other fall are just a distant memory. A tax-hiking, child-hating, terrorist-loving memory. And issues like gay marriage and the Iraq War haven’t really changed since November 7.

How can people whose jobs depend on being popularly elected be so unpopular?

The only logical answer is that Congress did a worse job at the end of the current term than they were last month. A poll said so, and our country’s government is, more or less, made up of our answers from one complicated survey.

If our elected officials want to win back the support of four percent of the American people, they’ll need to make some changes. While the new Congress will feature more Democrats than the last one, that likely won’t be enough to win back public support. After all, the only real story to come out of either chamber of Congress since the elections has been South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat, suffering from a stroke. So new Senators and Representatives should try and avoid going the whole stroke route, as there’s a good chance it could anger four percent of Americans.

A different Rasmussen survey from earlier this year revealed that more Americans believe used-car salesmen are generally more ethical than members of Congress. While some would see this as a harsh insult, I see it as a potential opportunity. Some of the more “popular” Senators or Representatives out there should try and opening a used car dealership. I know used car salesmen don’t have the best reputations, but everyone has to start somewhere, and according to the survey it’s an improvement in image. Maybe if that goes well we can see politicians work part time doing even more respected lines of work. Like greeting shoppers at Wal-Mart.

Or, if they’re really desperate, American politicians can just ignore the results of this poll and continue to get money and convince slightly less than half the population to go against their natural impulse for one morning every few years in November and vote them back into office.

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