Why Do We Dislike Congress, But Like Our Own Congressmen?

One of the puzzles of modern politics is that we think Congress is a disaster, as an institution, but we like our own members of Congress.


Sure, Congress can’t get anything done. It suffers the worst approval ratings in history. It is dysfunctional and gridlocked. It can’t pass budgets, solve the immigration mess, balance the nation’s budget, or get control of entitlements. And now it is shutting down the government, which threatens economic havoc.

But it must be everyone else’s members of Congress who are lousy. Ours are good guys doing their best. We like them. They’re just fine.

Interestingly, we aren’t so charitable with non-performers in other areas of life. Football coaches, for example, might be stuck in a bad system, might be great guys, might be highly talented. Might have all sorts of good excuses. But if they don’t win, they get the boot. No mercy.

A CEO might be a terrific guy, highly articulate and charismatic. He or she might face tough odds, trying to survive in a declining industry, for example. But if he can’t make a profit, can’t boost the share price, he’s gone. No leniency.

So it’s fair to ask the question: Should we continue to support and re-elect members of Congress who can’t get anything done? Who don’t accomplish what we sent them to do? Sure, they’re great people. They’re trying hard, doing their best. And they’re only one of 535.  They have plenty of excuses. We can’t blame the country’s problems just on them. 

But the bottom line is they’re not getting the job done. The nation’s problems are getting worse, not better.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. I can easily argue that it doesn’t make sense for us to unilaterally kick out our members of Congress, while voters in other states aren’t doing so. We would lose seniority and clout. And they do more than deal with big national issues. They also work on constituent and Utah-related matters.

Still, the big things aren’t getting done. And while Congress as an institution gets the blame, individual members don’t. But if all voters across the country started to get upset, not just with the do-nothing Congress as an institution, but with their own members of Congress who aren’t performing, then perhaps the folks in Congress would take note and act.

The truth is, members of Congress have become complacent because they’re safe back home. They’re not solving the nation’s problem, but they’re still safe politically.

Voters need to get a little more edgy, more nervous and tense, more anxious, and start blaming our own members of Congress, not just the institutional Congress.