back to article Confidence in US Congress sinks to lowest level ever recorded

Only a mere 10 per cent of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the US Congress, a new Gallup poll has found. "This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record," the pollsters observe. Gallup posed a simple question to a random sample …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Luckily, the US gov is keeping tabs on the dissatisfied 90%.

  2. LaeMing Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

    "Because if they don't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in."

    - Ford Prefect.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

      Things have changed:

      You used to have a choice between, a southern baptist millionaire lawyer backed by the oil industry, or a southern baptist millionaire lawyer backed by the entertainment industry.

      Now you have the same choice but one is half-black.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

        Cue Kodos and Kang: "It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system. You have to vote for one of us."

    2. Tom 13
      Flame

      Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

      There are many contributing factors: gerrymandering, lobbyists, campaign finance reform, ringers, and so on. But if I had to pick the one that has done the most damage to the body politic, it would be a super-majority of the Press selling out their souls for a bowl of porridge.

      Instead of reporting the facts and letting the people choose, they want to dictate the outcomes of the political battles. So they shape the terrain on which debates happen to at least tilt the odds in their favor if they can't outright name the winners and losers. Perhaps not as much in the UK as in the US, they are happy to report on any unsubstantiated smear against some politicians while heading facts about others. And if they can't win outright, they poison the well for everyone.

      Don't believe me? Look at this article. Look at the author of it. Look at his previous articles. He's a committed progressive from the People's Republic of San Francisco. Yet he speaks as if he is representing the unrepresented majority of the US. Oh, yes he's learned the art of the dark arts well and couches it in "objective" terms, sites what other people are saying, and never makes a "personal" statement. But where is the balance? Where are the dissenters who disagree with study? Are there none? And look at the comments in response. I count maybe one positive comment from a poster about a politician. Remember that poison well I mentioned? Does a well get more poisoned than the venom which has been spewed on these pages?

      In the US, if you want to fix it, it is actually pretty straight forward. Pick a party. Call them up. See if they have a precinct chairman/captain for where you live. If they don't volunteer to take the position. Chances are good you'll just get the job because about 2/3 of them are empty. Then go out and talk to your neighbors about who ought to be elected in the next contest. Help organize debates, and in the process change them to focus on the issues you want to have covered. And, when the party meets to make decisions, you'll get to vote. A vote that really counts, because you will be representing 500-2500* people in setting that platform. Including just maybe, who is on the ballot. If the position is already filled, volunteer to help him, or see if they would like you to take on a nearby precinct. It won't be easy. You'll actually have to work with a bunch of other precinct chairmen to advance what you want done. But the process is simple. But I don't think any of you will. You know why? Remember that poison I mentioned? How many of you won't do it because that would mean becoming just another sleazeball at the trough? If the Republic is dead, it's because Journalism killed it.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

    I voted for Obama because I liked his record on space and a couple other things, but especially because he wasn't a religious freakazoid like Bush or Romney.

    The next election I will probably vote independent because there will probably be no one to vote for, and not voting is invisible. It's the only "f*ck 'em both" option I have.

    1. IglooDude
      Facepalm

      Re: I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

      Except we're talking about Congress?

      You may have unintentionally highlighted the problem - we hardly know our Rep/Senators' names (I'd bet 20% can name both their Senators, and 10% can name their Rep), so only hardcore political fetishists and party loyalists show up for primary elections and in November it's an R/D lesser-of-two-evils or party-line vote for the vast majority. Then we wonder why our Congress is completely dysfunctional.

      1. Thorne
        FAIL

        Re: I'm no longer voting "for" but "against"

        No difference in Australia

        Last election I couldn't work out who I hated more. Ended up getting a Green's How to Vote card and put it in backwards...

        1. LaeMing Silver badge
          Unhappy

          How to Vote.

          Starting at the lowest number, decide candidate/party will do the most damage to the country. Then the next-most damaging, and so on until you put your number 1 next to the candidate/party you feel will do the least damage to the country.

  4. Khaptain Silver badge
    Flame

    Not just the yanks

    I was listening to a French radio debate this evening and it is the same for France, people are losing ( have lost) confidence in what politicians are capable of doing for their country.

    My personal impression :

    1st : Capitlistic greed has reached a level whereby it is no longer sustainable. Corporations and greedy Politicians, Business Men and the Banks have gobbled up the wealth and are hording it for themselves whilst the people struggle.

    2nd : Over population of the world and none of the politicians care, so problems are just going to get worse.

    3rd: It will take a third world war to calm things down if someone doesn't stand up and put an end to the greed. Why are there no rational politicians.

    The first signs of this can be seen in the mid east. I can only imagine that it will arrive also in the west, the form might be slightly different but the fundamentals will be the same. People are sick of watching how the wealthy live in luxury at their expense.

    I don't believe that Communism is the solution either but something other than the dog eat dog capitilism is required.

    Proverb for the day : Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it. ( William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham ).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just the yanks

      In other words...

      "Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us."

      -- P. J. O'Rourke

    2. ecofeco Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Not just the yanks

      Yep.

      Eventually the boomerang will come back around. It always does.

      Marie Antoinette didn't get it either.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just the yanks

      @Khaptain:

      "Capitlistic greed has reached a level whereby it is no longer sustainable."

      I have to disagree. I would firmly blame the moving away from capitalism as the problem (while the greed part is true). You mention france which voted socialist and are regretting the decision badly. But the reason they voted for him was the vast promises and bribes of a wonderful utopia of something for nothing. Capitalism promises work to earn but it doesnt promise to keep things running as normal by robbing the earners. And so a number of earners left.

      In the UK we have a choice of left, left or closer to the middle but left. Things have moved so badly left that their new competition (labour/tory) is to keep promising to move to the right. Either way we sit under the EU as the closest to a mainstream party on the right is UKIP. And they really do seem to be what tories once were (an option to the right).

      And so back to the US. At what point is it capitalism that the population dont know and dont care who is in charge. By voting in the same lemons they ensure nothing changes. The power is with the voter to decide the future of their country, yet I watch obama strip rights (bush did too but for war, obama seems to do it for fun) and fear used as a weapon to stop US voters from choosing.

      Communism isnt a solution, it has yet to demonstrate any good. Capitalism provides much good on a daily basis. If you have any doubt just look around you at the advancements and improvements in life. That is capitalism. And capitalism exists through choice and the will of the people.

      1. Danez
        Unhappy

        Re: Not just the yanks

        The problem with capitalism is that there is no restriction or limit to what a person can earn for a days work. It is an environment that rewards the greedy and people with sociopathic tendencies. What is a reasonable reward for working hard? Does the CEO or banker or whoever work 262 times harder. We all live in a symbiotic relationship with each other, and without all the little people who make the technology work, the people that make roads or soap powder or all the things they take for granted, the CEO or banker would just be a smelly, hungry, naked person in a field.

        With regard to Communism, the socialist ideal is to have equality for all, Communism took that idea and twisted it to serve the interests of a minority. I believe that wealth and power should be distributed a lot more evenly among the populous. If all the cash was not being hoarded by a minority then it would probably be getting spent a whole lot more often, generating a bit of VAT every time.

        I also find the idea of a professional politician offensive. I think we should be represented by people with real world experience, each for a period short enough that they don't get irrevocably changed, and develop the taste for power. Before you know it they would be buying an eye-patch and a cat and wanting to change the system to keep all the power to themselves.

        "Fortunes cannot be made fairly. Wealth is created via unfair exchanges where customers are overcharged and employees are underpaid".(http://istealyourmoney.com/stupid.html)

        The premise that market forces are some kind of panacea is deeply floored. Take the energy market, The "Big six" are quite happy with the status-quo and raise their prices in sync. This does not deliver the best deal for the consumer, nor will it ever.

        I suppose the big question that comes out of all this, is how do you change the system without getting locked up for 600 years or becoming a professional politician?

        1. Dave Lawton
          Coat

          Re: Not just the yanks

          I don't know the answer to your question

          > I suppose the big question that comes out of all this, is how do you

          > change the system without getting locked up for 600 years or

          > becoming a professional politician?

          But I have a couple of suggestions :-

          1. Make being an MP, Congresman, Representative, or whatever, be something everyone has to do, like jury service, for say 4 years, and make it that twice is all that you could ever serve.

          Sure, long term planning would suffer initially, but would you really say that what we have now is fit for purpose ?

          2. If anyone shows any tendency to want to be a politician, then they are permanently, and irrevocably barred from that sort of role.

          1. Bernard M. Orwell

            Re: Not just the yanks

            ...and once you finish your term of elected service, we will put you in court, on trial, for all that you have done. If you've been a good PM, and broken no laws, told no lies and achieved what you promised (ie, not in breach of contract, no acts of treason etc) then well done....

            ....if not...well....

    4. Sealand
      FAIL

      Re: Not just the yanks

      True - it's everywhere.

      Beleaguered by lobbyists, politicians are isolating themselves more and more from the people they are supposed to serve, with the consequence that the people are distancing themselves from the politicians. It's a downward spiral.

      Capitalism is all about accumulating wealth, and there is only so much wealth to accumulate. So when all the money is hoovered into large bins as it is now, there can be no more growth, and the system is bound to crash. Which it did, does and will do. Failure by design, so to speak. It would seem the cycle is 70 years or so.

      Communism in the true sense is something the world has yet to see. What we have seen is socialism, which is nothing more than state-centered capitalism. Which - according to the definition above - will also fail by design. the trouble here is that when it fails, it's a whole nation that crashes.

      I have no answer, but of the two options, I still prefer capitalism, because at least some of the time, society will prosper. If someone came out with an -ism that made it economically attractive to do something good for society, they'd have my vote. but as is stands today, I'm not sure where the money should come from ...

  5. Someone Else Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Because we're STOOPUD!

    Next question?

    1. Alan Firminger

      Yes, of course.

      But the institutions of government are there to be recreated on the electoral calender to survive the plebeian monstrosity. We are talking about government and its elected support.

      Here in the UK what can we look forward to ?

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: Here in the UK what can we look forward to ?

        A Nazi satsuma or a socialist trout?

        I don't think the Adipose man has a future since the electorate seem convinced that he's responsible for everything evil that happens simply because he doesn't have the clout to stop it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The really surprising thing...

    ...Is that 10 per cent of Americans still have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the US Congress. I wonder where they all live, as I've never met one of them.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: The really surprising thing...

      That group is comprised of the congressmen themselves, their families and their industry buddies.

  7. umouklo

    District tampering

    District re-sizing/tampering certainly plays a role in how these goof balls get re-elected every year. Their real goal is to get their fat paycheck and pension.

  8. maxwego

    The reason they keep voting the same people is in is rampant gerrymandering. The party that is going to win is rarely in doubt.

  9. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Boffin

    Different views

    It's simple, the question is worded wrong. I'd wager if the question was "I am going to read you a list of politicians in American society. Please tell us how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one – a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?" We would find out that on average each person has a great deal of confidence in 3 to 5 members of Congress and very little for the other 530 or so. In short, folks will say, 'the elected officials I voted for are good but I wish all the other stupid people in America didn't vote for all those other jerks.' As a result as an institution, to most folks Congress looks like a bunch of dopes with the exception of a few bright sparks. On the whole, most folks are absolutely right.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Different views

      You give me that list and the only two who would get higher than 'some' from me are both people I don't get to vote on. That remains true if you include the people that my Congressmen have run against in the last couple election cycles. You go back further than that and add in a couple guys who are now enjoying their retirements and they might get higher, but they were in office before I became disillusioned with the entire process.

    2. Kevin Fields

      Re: Different views

      This is exactly what I heard from another research study released just after the last US elections. People, for the most part, feel confident in their own elected representatives, but don't feel the same way about the ones they didn't elect, even if they have the same voting patterns and records.

  10. Anomalous Cowshed

    Lost its relevance

    The loss of confidence could just be the reflection of a trend I seem to observe in several parliaments around the world: loss of relevance. Once Parliaments were places where the power brokers sat. So they were places where serious decisions were taken. These days you see token members of minorities (UK, France) and cute girlies (France and Italy) being elected as MPs to make the place look good and please the electorate. There's nothing wrong with that, except that it debases the power element - Parliament becomes a more of a showcase than a powerhouse, more of a face than a brain. A kind of empty shell. A rubber stamp. And inevitably, people have less confidence in it, because there's no reason to have any confidence in it: the real power broking and decision-making takes place elsewhere.

  11. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Why? Because they no longer work for us...

    In the USA and, increasingly, it seems, in the UK, many politicians (especially those at the top) are now bought and paid for by wealthy vested interests, either through campaign contributions or offering lucrative directorships to "help them decide" which way they and their party will vote.

    The idea that casting a ballot once every few years gives you some influence on the process is, regrettably, laughable.

    We did have the opportunity a couple of years ago to at least improve the system, but, once again, the wealthy vested interests came down on one side and decided that they didn't want us to have it, so we got a a referendum on a system that wasn't great (instead of a *choice* of what system to use) and one party that opposed, whilst another party simply wouldn't support it and we, the electorate, got screwed.

  12. Ryan Nix

    Orwell was right

    Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

  13. sisk Silver badge

    No good choices

    Sadly the only people able to get elected to DC in the US are extremists. Actually that's becoming true at the state level to.

  14. joed

    as long as 1% is happy

    the remaining 99 does not count.

    9 more to go before they have to worry about their base.

  15. Tikimon Silver badge
    Facepalm

    You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

    The Founders of the US wanted to avoid professional politicians holding office. They wanted Real People to take time off from being successful to help run the country. The people should be represented by their own.

    Instead, we have career politicians (person who specialize in getting elected to office) hand-picked and pre-screened for party compliance. My choices in any election I can think of for 30 years have been Dickhead A or B. Whichever party holds the reins, they're going to do asinine things to further their political agenda, no matter how it screws the country.

    Given the lack of decent folks to vote into office and no option for "none of the above, new election with new candidates, please", it's no mystery that Congress is full of misguided jerks. It's hardly a secret, so why should we have any confidence in them?

    And would you Brits PLEASE keep our total lack of decent candidates in mind when bashing our government's actions? THEY DO NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS. Only the American political parties, who firmly control the process.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

      To be fair, I've never seen a ballot with less than three candidates. Unfortunately no matter how fed up with Republicans and Democrats the nation gets most of the sheeple refuse to vote for any other political party because "that would be throwing our votes away". That's the only reason the two major parties have such a strangle hold on the process. If we could get all the people who have had enough to just vote third party or independent the Republicans and Democrats wouldn't stand a chance.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

        It would take a lot of people voting 3rd party to get any traction. The networks alone can kill an outside candidate by not allowing them to the debates. It is so very screwed up.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

          Too true, it's usually the networks that parrot their political masters' comments about third party candidates. It's usually the radical, extreme, fringe, quixotic or unelectable candidate versus the two respected, honorable, experienced and or wise candidates from the major parties.

          In reality the two party cartel is basically voting for the shit sandwich with mayo or the shit sandwich with mustard. Of course there are the extremes of the two parties which claim to be whole wheat or multi-grain too but still a shit sandwich.

          1. frank ly

            @Eddy Ito Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

            According to South Park (Season 8, episode 8), it's a choice between a Douche and a Turd (I strongly recommend watching this episode).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

        'Unfortunately no matter how fed up with Republicans and Democrats the nation gets most of the sheeple refuse to vote for any other political party because "that would be throwing our votes away".'

        That certainly is a convenient rationalization. I actually believe the truth is even simpler: most people don't vote for the best candidate after careful study of his character and record, the issues, and his policies. Instead, they see themselves as part of a group, engaged in fighting or resisting another group; so they vote for their group's "representative". Democracy is a great idea, but it cuts right across the grain of human nature - which desperately wants to be part of a team, with a strong leader, that beats other teams.

    2. Don Jefe
      Meh

      Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

      The founding fathers generally regarded politics as a necessary evil and part if their civic duty. They even listed their jobs in the censuses (censusi?) as farmer, carpenter, etc. The idea of doing it forever was generally appalling.

      That's why I'm all for term limits for Congress seats. More than partisan bickering, it is the arcane set of internal rituals that screw things up for everyone. Everyone is playing by a set of internal rules in order to get on fat committes at the expense of national legislature. Self important jackasses.

      1. Keep Refrigerated
        Alert

        Re: You have two hand-picked partisan polticians: CHOOSE ONE

        I tend to bang a drum about this but I don't apologise and I really feel that it needs to be mentioned more... Switzerland is a great (and the only) example of a direct democracy that works. No career politicians and functioning on public referendums for every new law, just as you describe.

        Career politics is the enemy and it needs to end - spread the word!

      2. Irony Deficient

        censusi?

        Don Jefe, the (nominative) plural of census in Latin is census (with a long u). The phrase “in the censuses” would probably take the ablative in Latin, so would wind up being translated as in censibus.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Tikimon

      "And would you Brits PLEASE keep our total lack of decent candidates in mind when bashing our government's actions? THEY DO NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS. Only the American political parties, who firmly control the process."

      Why do you assume it's any different here in Britain? It isn't.

      Fairly recently I realised that my government, my country, and hence I myself (as a citizen) have a huge amount of innocent blood on our hands. Yet I never desired that or (consciously) voted for it. But what party could I have voted for that would have refrained from killing people in Asia for their own good? Not the "Conservatives" (who, incidentally, have not been conservative in any sense of the word for many decades). Not "Labour" (which no longer stands for labour, and whose last two prime ministers are now roving multi-millionaires). Not the "Liberal Democrats", who include a lot of extremely illiberal people who believe in democracy only when it suits them. You can't find a party with any MPs that has taken a stance against unprovoked aggressive war, the supreme international crime. On the contrary - they all glory in it, seeking the "Churchill/Thatcher effect".

      So I have the choice of continuing to be an accessory to aggressive war and attempted genocide, or I disenfranchise myself by ceasing to vote. But even that wouldn't help, as whether I vote or not I still share the guilt.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: @ Tikimon

        "You can't find a party with any MPs that has taken a stance against unprovoked aggressive war, the supreme international crime."

        To be fair, the Greens *do* have one MP. In a blind test of party manifestoes in the 2010 election, theirs came out on top, too.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The election and voting system is strategically designed by those already in power...

    .... to keep independents and free thinkers out... Look at the games they play with regional or other boundaries to manipulate the voting system. What surprises me is how the low approval rating doesn't translate into people simply rebelling and voting for the oddest choice as a FU to the establishment....

    .....But wait that won't work, because we only get to vote at the final screening. For instance I wanted to vote for Ron Paul. I didn't care if he's nuts, I just wanted to see the Fed get audited and our gold get counted. For no other reason than to make the elite sweat! But our eventual choices were Obama or Vulture Capital. Obama kept Bush's policies. So frying pan or fire you choose, either way we're screwed!

  17. ChrisM

    I will believe in politicians...

    When they take the medicine they prescribe for us... Isn't it true that congress has a fantastic medical plan that covers not only the politicians but their families as well?

  18. Herby Silver badge

    Congress in general, or your own congressman?

    Our American public generally doesn't like the "other" politicians, but is quite happy with "their own" politicians. Yes they despise congress as a whole but as is said in other arguments, they keep electing it.

    Unfortunate as it is, we don't elect all 435 representatives we only elect one (unless you are from say Chicago, where the motto is vote early, vote often). That single one is the popular one in the district, and the rest of the country be damned.

    We get the congress we elect. Unfortunately that is how it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Our American public ... is quite happy with "their own" politicians

      Really? I don't know *anyone* who has been enthusiastic about the congressmen they've voted for. Nearly always, it's a matter of holding your nose and choosing the one who will do the least damage.

  19. gnufrontier

    Binary human

    It seems the end point of a mature democracy when there is no charismatic savior type figure running is a close to 50/50 split of political philosophy even if much of it is of the bumper sticker variety. One doesn't need even an intro course in physics to know that when two opposing forces are equal or close to equal, there is very little movement. When no one gets what they want it is easy to point to the other side as being obstructionist.

    Voters and non-voters alike will say why can't elected leaders compromise and get along yet if one looks at the behavior or attitudes of these critics one will find there are plenty who can't get along with others either due to differences in personality, politics, consumption patterns, standards of social etiquette, dress and a host of other reasons too numerous to mention.

    Members of Congress reflect the people of the United States. Our low opinion of them is because we pretend we are looking through a window instead of into a mirror.

    Maybe we need to remember that mass politics always seeks the lowest common denominator and that seems to be the number 2.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Nope, it's first-past-the-post which does that.

      A "first past the post" system forces this:

      - It rapidly becomes clear that voting for anyone other than the top two from last time is pointless.

      - In an A, C, Z election, Voting for "Option C" that meets your views better than A, tends to cause option Z (opposed to your views) to win by moving votes from option A to C.

      Thus it gravitates to a two-party system with "safe seats" in many votes, and the politicians can trivially ignore most of the electorate.

      So why did the UK idiot electorate believe the big two parties when they campaigned against changing the voting system?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Binary human

      "It seems the end point of a mature democracy when there is no charismatic savior type figure running is a close to 50/50 split of political philosophy even if much of it is of the bumper sticker variety. One doesn't need even an intro course in physics to know that when two opposing forces are equal or close to equal, there is very little movement. When no one gets what they want it is easy to point to the other side as being obstructionist."

      Interesting theory.

      So how do you explain the British result of a coalition under a first-past-the-post system?

      Or are you talking solely about the American experience?

  20. Charles Manning

    Dumb voters want someone to blame

    Folks, it's a democracy.

    That means you choose the politicians

    and the politicians choose their policies to reflect what gets voted for.

    USA's biggest problem is its huge debt and deficit. People know this, but they also know that the people they voted in won't fix the problem.

    The people could start voting for other politicians that would fix the problems, but tightening the belt and reigning in spending would be too painful, so the punters just keep the status quo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rubbish.

      The US has a dysfunctional form of representational democracy in which politics is an ungovernable zero-sum game. Compromise has become more difficult than ever because nearly all Congressmen and Senators come from one-party states where they are rewarded for non-compromising. Stating that "you choose the politicians" is simply a canard: the electorate cannot "choose" a Congressman in any meaninful sense when the several candidates available to them have already been preselected by interests inimical to the general voter.

      1. Kevin 6
        Thumb Up

        Re: Rubbish.

        As it is right now you have 2 options, and both are steaming piles of shit. Its just do you hate the smell of the least elephant shit, or donkey shit.

        The independents I sometimes think are paid to run, and be complete lunatics by the 2 parties so they can make the facade that you have a choice when you really don't.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Dumb voters want someone to blame

      Actually the electoral colleges choose the politicians

      And the existing politicians choose the electoral college, and set the election boundaries decide who gets the broken voting machines and decide who gets to count the votes

      1. LateNightLarry
        FAIL

        Re: Dumb voters want someone to blame

        The Electoral College only "chooses" the President and Vice President, not any of the Congressional (NON)representatives in either the House or the Senate. And the Electoral College doesn't necessarily represent the "will of the people" casting votes for President. Each state sets their own rules for their Electoral College representatives, and those representatives don't necessarily have to cast their EC vote according to the voters who chose them... all the more reason to eliminate the EC.

        The EC and politics in general are a failure in the USofA.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Dumb voters want someone to blame

          The Electoral College is an awful thing. It effectively disenfranchises the voters.

          I also like the original idea of making the Vice President the losing Presidential candidate. That method gives the position some power (as opposed to being a post assassination placeholder) and empowers the Executive branch with a less lopsided base of power.

    3. Mike Flugennock
      Mushroom

      Re: Dumb voters want someone to blame

      ...That means you choose the politicians...

      Like hell, we do. US "elections" are meaningless media freak circuses where all the important decisions have already been made, and citizens have a "duty" to validate the dysfunctional rule of corporate-whoring politicians by participating in a meaningless ritual.

      ...The people could start voting for other politicians that would fix the problems, but tightening the belt and reigning in spending would be too painful, so the punters just keep the status quo...

      Bah. Bullshit. What the people could do is to agitate for real change outside the constraints of a broken-beyond-repair, corporate-run electoral system, but Americans are too big a bunch of pussies for that.

  21. Don Jefe
    Facepalm

    USA USA

    "This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record,"

    Good ole USA. Still leading the way in setting new records.

    I suppose the upside of this is that practically anything else would seem better. It's like 'there can't be a first place if there's no last place'.

    1. LateNightLarry
      FAIL

      Re: USA USA

      Somalia? Maybe no working government is better than the crock we have now?

  22. jason 7 Silver badge

    So much needs changing but the ones that can change it...won't.

    I feel that becoming a politician is too much a leg up to a further career, social/corporate climbing type scenario.

    Certainly in the UK I think a lot of newer MPs are only doing it as they see it as a stepping stone to greater glories and wealth. The fact that they have to hear from old Mrs Tompkins and her cats for 5-10 years is a small price to pay, especially if they can wrangle a senior cabinet position.

    I think this is basically encouraging sociopaths to power rather than those that actually want to serve their country and it's people.

    It's time that the role of politician was totally revised and all the responsibilities and perks that go with it. Essentially cutting off any potential social climbing (not being able to take up any directorship/consultancy roles with any company you may have had dealings with as an MP for at least 5 years after leaving office. Not being able to write about your time in office, stricter salary and expenses limits etc. etc.) and betterment.

    Basically you do the job for the love of your country and to make it better.

    Not to land some fabulous consultancy role or Directorship at BAe the day after you quit/get voted out.

    1. Denarius
      Thumb Up

      Re: So much needs changing but the ones that can change it...won't.

      J7, good points. One might also suggest that the importance of the pollie as media performer encourages the narcissist personality to take the job on. In Oz we are suffering thru the foulest fake election campaign anyone has seen. Relentlessly trivial, personal attacks on office holders or wannabes and no discussion of policies or anything that matters. What passes for media seems to be driving this, but for what reason escapes me.

      Much as independents have earned much ire for supporting this minority government, voting for any of the major and not so major parties is not to be considered except in desperation. I await the next manufactured fear campaigns over some false irrelevant threat from both sides with loathing.

      As for the lack of quality of pollies, I agree with fellow commentards about mine good, yours bad. Seems common that the local member may have high local loyalty while being a disaster for the country.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So much needs changing but the ones that can change it...won't.

      The ancient Athenians, who arguably invented democracy (it's hardly ever been tried since) had a few good ideas. First, all public officials were elected by the demos as a whole (no women, no slaves in those days, of course). Second: after an official's period of office elapsed (normally no longer than one year) the demos voted again: this time to determine the ex-official's reward OR PUNISHMENT. If he had done well, he might get a statue or a pension. But if he made bad decisions, failed, lost lives and money... he might be fined, banished, or even sentenced to death. I believe at one point several generals in a row went into voluntary exile rather than face the death sentences awaiting them at home.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: So much needs changing but the ones that can change it...won't.

      "Basically you do the job for the love of your country and to make it better."

      A noble and beautiful idea.

      Lets go back to the 19th century, when only the hereditary rich could afford to take up an MP ship.

      You do realize that in the US (which this story is about) virtually all Senators and Congressmen are millionaires (or in some cases billionaires)?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple answer

    We don't vote for "congress." We vote for our representatives and senators. And polls always show we like them quite a bit. It's your reps we aren't so fond of.

  24. karlsbad
    Mushroom

    In My Red State - Republican incumbents w/ huge wodges nonetheless run unapposed.

    Epic Fail. Where's the Royal Prerogative when you need it?

  25. karlsbad
    Mushroom

    In My Red State - Republican incumbents w/ huge wodges nonetheless run unapposed.

    Epic Fail.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's simple really...

    It's expensive to get elected in the U.S. The money required comes mostly from corporations. Successful politicians try to guess the message that will win them enough votes and use the money they get from private interests to get that message out in front of voters.

    Once they're elected they do what their investors tell them to and what the voters see is "he didn't keep his promises".

    Without money you just don't matter; most Americans get their information through the television and getting on to deliver your message is expensive.

  27. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    IT Angle

    IT angle, please?

    Tech site, remember...?

  28. MeRp

    My representative, like most of the rest, is a terrible pork-barreling protectionist, double-dealing, corporate whore. I vote for someone else every time, and he wins over and over; 18 years and counting. Of course his opponents all seem just as slavishly corrupt, so perhaps that is why no one bothers to elect someone else.

  29. Mike Flugennock
    Mushroom

    So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

    Because Americans, for the most part, are weak, lazy, and just plain fucking rock-stupid.

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why the %$#@! do we keep re-electing the same politicians?

      "Because Americans, for the most part, are weak, lazy, and just plain fucking rock-stupid".

      If you say so. But those things are relative... Just like the rest of humanity. There are a few intelligent human beings, but the race as a whole is indeed plain fucking rock-stupid.

  30. Mike Flugennock
    Facepalm

    ...and what's worse...

    ...is the approval rating for the military. After all that's gone down in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan -- 75%?

    That's just fucked up, man.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: ...and what's worse...

      And what's more, that tells me that we CAN blame the average American for their country's warlike foreign policy and aggression. That 75% that supports the US military, supports the millions of deaths that have occurred as they bomb other countries to further their own interests. The blood of every murdered family, every slaughtered child, is on those supporters' hands as much as any soldier's.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: ...and what's worse... (@ Steven Roper)

        "The blood of every murdered family, every slaughtered child, is on those supporters' hands as much as any soldier's."

        Sorry to disagree. Given the level of brainwashing that Big Media inflicts on the general public, I'd say it's not fair to consider the public has all -or most of- the responsibility.

        In my opinion, the USA screwed it completely when they killed the laws against media monopolies. Independent media covering these and other issues in a balanced/truthful way would probably fix many of the problems discussed in this thread.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...and what's worse... (@ Steven Roper)

          "Sorry to disagree. Given the level of brainwashing that Big Media inflicts on the general public, I'd say it's not fair to consider the public has all -or most of- the responsibility."

          Sorry to disagree. It doesn't matter that the public are systematically disinformed. It is their responsibility to find out the truth and vote for a decent government. In a democracy, the people are sovereign, and that cuts both ways. It means they are responsible for everything their nation does - and there is no "get out of jail" card.

          Who forgave the German public for putting the Nazis in power and supporting them? Who forgave the Russians for Stalin? Your case is no different - except that the apparatus of repression is much weaker (so far) and the mechanism of propaganda much more tenuous and subtle.

      2. Don Jefe
        FAIL

        Re: ...and what's worse...

        Step away from the bong hippie, you've had enough. As soon as your undergrad sociology degree wears off you will realize that almost every major military engagement undertaken from Korea to the present has been terribly unpopular with most people and the soldiers themselves. The folks in uniform don't get to choose where they go what their mission will be. If it is anything less than full blown war Congress really can't stop the President from deploying troops anyway.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: ...and what's worse...

          "The folks in uniform don't get to choose where they go what their mission will be."

          They *could* choose not to join up...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...and what's worse...

          "As soon as your undergrad sociology degree wears off you will realize that almost every major military engagement undertaken from Korea to the present has been terribly unpopular with most people and the soldiers themselves. "

          So what you are saying is the USA engages in wars that the people don't want and the soldiers disapprove of. Hmph! Some democracy. Some republic.

          "The folks in uniform don't get to choose where they go what their mission will be."

          It was determined at Nuremberg that they do - otherwise they risk dangling from a rope. Bradley Manning did. Any more volunteers?

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: ...and what's worse...

            "It was determined at Nuremberg that they do - otherwise they risk dangling from a rope."

            That kind of thing only applies to the enemy who you want to see dead, but can't simply execute. A military cannot function if your own troops can choose not to follow orders without there being repercussions.

          2. Mike Flugennock

            Re: ...and what's worse...

            Damn straight, man.

            I could cut 'em a break for Vietnam, as most of the guys in that one were conscripts who didn't really want to be there, but the people doing the murdering and torturing and occupying in Iraq and Afghanistan willingly walked into a recruiting office, willingly signed a piece of paper and willingly accepted a salary to do what they're doing.

            Yes, they did choose, and yes, they do deserve to swing for it. "Support our troops", my ass.

  31. Shannon Jacobs
    Holmes

    The Founding Fathers would be appalled

    Let's go from the cause to the results:

    (1) Most businesspeople are fine and upstanding folks. They just want to play by the rules. However the greediest and LEAST ethical businessmen (and virtually all of the members of this bad crowd do seem to be men) have discovered it is easier to rig the game than to play fair. They do this by bribing the cheapest professional politicians. I think there is a slight bias in favor of neo-GOP pols as having the cheapest souls to buy these days, but that doesn't really matter, because the crooks will just buy as many as they need. (Because they are so greedy, they don't buy extra votes for what is actually a form of class warfare, which is why Congress gives an illusion of some balance.)

    (2) Congress is broken. The founders wanted Congress to generally represent the will of the majority while protecting the rights of everyone. In the Senate, the protective clauses are now routinely abused to the point where the Senate can do nothing if Senators representing less then 25% of the voters feel like blocking action. (Remember that the 40 senators from the smallest states did not even receive all of the votes in their own states. The actual worst-case number works out as roughly 60% of 30%, which is only 18% of all of America's citizens.) The House is even worse. Due to aggressive gerrymandering and focused bribes (AKA SuperPAC money and some campaign donations), the part of the government that was supposed to be most responsive to the voters is now completely unresponsive and not even representative. The Democratic Party actually receive the majority of the votes in the last election, but only wound up with less than 45% of the House.

    Personally, I prefer evolution rather then revolution, but most of the lunatics don't even believe in evolution. I think the future of America looks increasingly brutal and short.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually they don't

    Many U.S. politicians are replaced with each election but they are all corrupt so it's just a changing of the players.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What if they held an election...

    ...and nobody turned up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What if they held an election...

      "

      What if they held an election......and nobody turned up?"

      Now you are getting warm.

    2. Mike Flugennock

      Re: What if they held an election...

      Bingo! Whenever I hear people bitching about the quality of the leadership and the bastardized electoral process, I tell them to stay home on election day, to stop validating the staus quo by participating in their empty ritual, to work outside the system for the change they want to see. I tell them they have no right to bitch because they voted for the clowns in charge, they're the ones who legitimized their rule by participating in their corrupt process.

      In more countries than I can count, when it's determined that an election is going to be rigged, or is otherwise illegitimate, the opposition parties and other dissidents call for a boycott, as participation in the election would be considered a validation of the incumbents' corrupt and/or oppressive rule.

      Even inasmuch as there's been a de facto boycott going on in the USA, many activists -- not to mention both major parties -- insist on fetishizing voting, referring to it as a "duty" similar to reporting for the draft or jury service. Bah! Wotta crock.

  34. Kharkov
    Facepalm

    This is a little misleading...

    Congress is very distrusted, true, but I'm sure that most of the respondents have a reasonable level of confidence in their own representative.

    It looks like most voters in the U.S. just vote for their own party's guy without much critical thought and take it as read that the OTHER guy would sell the country out to Arab countries/corporations (delete as applicable) but never, never actually look at what their own guy says/does/writes/tweets/etc...

    Knee-jerk reaction, guaranteed to get jerks...

  35. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    USians. Might I suggest....

    Robert Heinlein's only non fiction work Take back your government

    Forget about the big picture. If you can win in one district or state you start to show an alternative.

    The trick is if you do to make the work of the candidate you got elected effective once they get there.

  36. Doug Bostrom

    Will our memory be long enough?

    In 3-4 years we'll have no polar orbiting weather satellites and our forecasting ability will be thrown back to the 1960s era because of absurd stunts such as "sequestration." There are loads of other time-delayed disasters being planted today by our ideological romantics, mostly noticeable only later. Will anybody remember to connect the dots?

    "We couldn't afford new satellites" won't sound very convincing, if folks ask why we no longer can predict whether a hurricane will make landfall or not. But will we remember that we used to have that ability?

    1. Don Jefe
      Unhappy

      Re: Will our memory be long enough?

      "But will we remember that we used to have that ability?"

      Some might, but they will be accused of overhyping the past, mooning over their golden age. The ones that are too young to remember will be told it never was that way and those technologies were just stories.

  37. Magister
    Flame

    Oliver Cromwell forcibly dissolved parliament as he became frustrated with their activities. His actual speech was not transcribed, but the following is generally thought to be a reasonably good offering of his speech in the House.

    It's a shame that the words would be as valid today as they were 350 years ago. (FYI, one of the first ships to be commissioned in the new USA navy of 1776 was named 'Oliver Cromwell')

    --------

    "It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

    Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

    Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

    In the name of God, go!"

  38. panhead20
    Unhappy

    As long as R's and D's are running the country, nothing will change. The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

  39. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Its is

    the rampant gerrymandering by both parties that causes most of the problems

    The fact a 50/50 R/D state can be cut up into a 60/40 split either way, and neither party objects because it means they can fill those seats with incumbents who wont ever get voted out in 40 years

    Plus the fact that many politicians seem to end up on the payroll of big corps before/after leaving office does'nt help

    But then I'm commenting on the US system instead of my native UK system which works hard to remove crooks , liars, cheats, and bought men from parli.......... hold on.....

    Where Cromwell when you need him?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    History repeats

    Nowadays, there's endless right-wing scuttlebutt that President Obama will declare some weird state of emergency in 2016 to keep power because he's more popular than Congress. He can't make it stick -- because he's not a military man.

    Historical patterns repeat because human behavior remains consistent over time. So here's a good example of what I'm talking about...

    As I recall from my Roman history, at one point the military and the plebs were immensely frustrated with the Senate and patricians (sound familiar?), the Roman Republic had lurched from crisis to crisis (sounds familiar?) and so the zeitgeist led Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar to ultimately kick off a civil war in the name of reform that led Octavian to establish himself as Emperor in order to "ensure stability."

    If the pattern holds true, we ought to start with a couple of bipartisan "pragmatic reformers" who aim to lead Congress in a new direction. It won't work, will stimulate more difficulty, and then a military man with a track record of success will march up, cross a river (the Potomac?) and provide temporary stability.

    With the military at 70+% approval ratings, in a country consciously modeled on the Roman Republic (thanks Thomas Jefferson!), what would happen in the U.S. if a general or admiral stood up and said "Like you, I'm tired of endless crisis, what this country needs is leadership, let me move us forward together?" Particularly with the backing of the trustworthy military?

    Course, it might be necessary to invade Britain...it worked for Caesar.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: History repeats

      If it makes you feel any better, the crossing of the Potomac will kill all the participants. You aren't even supposed to get the water on your skin anymore it is so foul.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Re: History repeats

        If it makes you feel any better, the crossing of the Potomac will kill all the participants. You aren't even supposed to get the water on your skin anymore it is so foul...

        I was born and raised in and around the Washington DC area and still live here. I was a young boy in the '60s when the Potomac did indeed have a reputation for being one of the dirtiest rivers in the country.

        Thanks to a concerted cleanup program begun in the '70s, though, the Potomac is now clean enough to fish in and no, there are no adverse effects from getting the water on your skin. We get most of our tap water from the Potomac, and it's as least as clean -- if not cleaner -- that that overpriced bottled yuppie water you get at Whole Foods.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: History repeats

      "With the military at 70+% approval ratings, in a country consciously modeled on the Roman Republic (thanks Thomas Jefferson!), what would happen in the U.S. if a general or admiral stood up and said "Like you, I'm tired of endless crisis, what this country needs is leadership, let me move us forward together?" Particularly with the backing of the trustworthy military?"

      Never seen Seven Days in May?

    3. Mike Flugennock

      Re: History repeats

      Nowadays, there's endless right-wing scuttlebutt that President Obama will declare some weird state of emergency in 2016 to keep power because he's more popular than Congress...

      Obummer, more popular than Congress? Shit, man, that ain't sayin' much.

      Now, myself, I got a huge laff out of that poll from last year that showed Congress as even less popular than Nickelback -- and if you've heard Nickelback, you'll know why I was laughing.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Congress' 90% Disapproval rate ... NSA & Privacy

    From Today's Reg Article: 'Not just telcos, THOUSANDS of companies share data with US spies'. The second paragraph is most telling regarding Congress not looking after or even comprehending privacy:-

    "The types of information shared can range from customer metadata to detailed descriptions of telecommunications networks and systems, both foreign and domestic – and often the strict legality of such information sharing is unclear."

    "That's what makes this issue of oversight so challenging," Jacob Olcott of Good Harbor Security Risk Management told Bloomberg. "You have a situation where the technology and technical policy is far outpacing the background and expertise of most elected members of Congress or their staffs

  42. J. Gatsby

    Tikimon, we Brits have enough problems with our own politicians to criticise anyone else's! Your politicians may be incompetent but ours are incompetent and corrupt. And you're right; no one should ever confuse what the politicians of a country say with what the people of that country actually think.

  43. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Might I suggest that "Approval" does not *necessarily* mean agreement?

    The US people approve of people who are committed enough to their country to defend it.

    That does not necessarily mean they agree who it's being used to defend the country from

    Of course there is that little exchange in "Watchmen"

    "We're the last line of defense"

    "Who from?"

    "Themselves."

    1. Mike Flugennock
      FAIL

      Re: Might I suggest that "Approval" does not *necessarily* mean agreement?

      The US people approve of people who are committed enough to their country to defend it....

      One problem, here: what Our Troops are doing in Afghanistan -- and did in Iraq -- has absolutely nothing at all to do with "defending our country".

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Might I suggest that "Approval" does not *necessarily* mean agreement?

        "One problem, here: what Our Troops are doing in Afghanistan -- and did in Iraq -- has absolutely nothing at all to do with "defending our country"."

        Anything above a superficial examination of why the US invaded either country shows the idea was deeply stupid, but the idea that people (not themselves usually) would commit to defending the abstract idea of a country is what (I think) Americans admire. You honor the men and women, not the politicians who sent them or the reasons for going.

        It would be interesting to confirm (or not) Michael Moore's assertion that no child of a serving Senator or Congressperson is serving in the military at this time, and I think that includes the Texas Air National Guard. That's where Bush Jnr sat out Viet Nam, just in case the NVA decided to open a second front on Dallas or Houston. You've got to wonder if the old frat boy was smart enough to think up that dodge himself or did daddy "suggest" it.

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