Perhaps expectations are too high on Congress. Perhaps the public expects too much from elected officials. And perhaps the bar of what justifies being (re-)elected to political office needs to be lowered.
Then again, not really.
It is hard to feel bad for Congress, when they make astoundingly bad choices that none of their constituents would make. Forget, for a moment, the votes against the will of the public or shady coercive deals in the middle of the night. Just look at what Congress has done in the past week or so.
With the nation still reeling from 9.6% unemployment, and without a national budget, Congress moved forward with important issues. They had Stephen Colbert come to a Congressional hearing to do a stand-up (ok, he was sitting) version of his television mock politics show. That cost $125,000 to the taxpayers.
It was preceeded by a vote, for the funding of national defense that MUST be passed eventually, that had 2 Bills slipped in when they thought no one was looking. The items added? The DREAM Act – a amnesty-lite proposal for illegal aliens, and a repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Neither of which is popular with the majority of Americans, nor even close to the top issues the public wants addressed right now. The fact that this assured the Defense funding to not pass helps no one in the nation.
One thing that is on the minds of Americans is taxes. Notably whether or not tax rates will increase, in a recession, for everyone or just those that have and create businesses. Because potential jobs are on the line, not to mention the household budgets of tens of millions that barely survive now.
So the House of Representatives did the only thing that made sense to them. They went home, many to secure re-election if possible. Because the priority is to retain power in Congress, not give the nation assurance one way or the other.
There were 39 Democrats, and all the Republicans, that wanted to stay and vote on the Bush tax cuts. They wanted to provide the public and voters some semblance of executing their jobs. They wanted to justify why they were voted into office, if only to have 1 thing to tout in political ads that actually reflected their voting records.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the final decisive vote, to guarantee that any decision on taxes will only come after the mid-term elections. A time when no politician can be held accountable if they take a completely partisan stance, and reject the opinions of their constituents. It also allows for the long-term strategy of placing blame on Republicans for the past 2 years (and likely next 3 as well) of economic woe. A smart strategy for the 2012 Presidential election, though a poor act of responsibility to the Americans they represent.
In the Senate, there was enough time to make their own stand on priorities. They made it clear that Americans have a need. To have the volume of television commercials lowered. It was unanimous.
Yes, a decisive vote on a matter that cannot wait. Nothing is more disruptive than having a television commercial blare, except of course having the cable turned off because you can’t afford to pay the bill. Or maybe losing your home because you don’t have a job and/or the Make Home Affordable option laid out by Democrats and the Obama Administration doesn’t work. But there must be priorities, and television obviously must be at the top of the list.
Honestly, does anyone in Congress, either house, think that the only people in America upset right now are those in the Tea Party? Do they truly believe that voters in their own Parties believe they are doing a job worthy of re-election? That somehow no voter is paying attention to any major issue, or that they will simply vote along the partisan Party line allowing political leaders to choose the issues that are important in their individual lives?
If politicians can’t stand up and celebrate the votes they have made on various laws while in office, if they can’t make a political ad highlighting the positions they took on various laws, then why should we re-elect them? If the best they can offer is television satirists and television volume control when the public is asking about jobs and keeping their homes, why in the world do we need them?