How can the Congressional reelection rate be so high when its approval rate is so low?

Yes, America did just elected Donald J Trump as their President. Questions about how and why fill the minds of critical thinkers all across the Nation. Additional questions flow from this new unsettling reality. “How do I respect the Office of the President when I do not respect the man?” However, the more important question that Liberals and Progressives, who are reeling from the 2016 election results, should be contemplating is: “How to effect a reversal of fortune of both Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress during the Midterm elections of 2018.”

“the real power lies with Congress. Congress is considered the first branch of our government because it writes the laws, levies taxes, authorizes the borrowing of money, declares war, and regulates commerce. The House of Representatives has the power to impeach the president. It is Congress that has the biggest impact on the lives of Americans, and as such it is the Congressional elections that we should be most concerned about.”

I found many articles confirming the anomaly but few concrete suggestions or answers for why things are the way they are.

“It seems reasonable to assume that since most citizens know so little about their representatives in office, they are likely to know even less — or nothing at all — about the candidates competing in the primary. If this is the case, they are likely to ask themselves, “Why bother?”

The few people who do vote in the primaries tend to be members of special interest groups that the incumbents have worked hard to turn into supporters. These voters reward incumbents for policy favors they’ve received by voting for them in the primary election. For others who vote, the incumbent has credibility from having previously won office, and has on-the-job experience, while challengers are likely to be totally unknown. People are highly unlikely to vote for candidates who they know nothing about. This allows most incumbents to breeze through primary elections.”

“How Was 91 Percent of Congress Re-Elected Despite a 10 Percent Approval Rating?”, The Huffington Post, T. Phillips, 13 November 2012, 13 January 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-phillips/congress-election-results_b_2114947.html>

The problem is a thorny one. I decided to do a bit of research on why incumbents retain their seats when their constituents say they disapprove of the jobs that they and their Congressional comrades are doing. Why this should be the case vexes me so.

I decided to read as many articles on the topic as I could find. What I learned is not flattering for the average US Citizen.

“On average, today’s citizens are about as able to name their leaders, and are about as aware of major news events, as was the public nearly 20 years ago. The new survey includes nine questions that are either identical or roughly comparable to questions asked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2007, somewhat fewer were able to name their governor, the vice president, and the president of Russia, but more respondents than in the earlier era gave correct answers to questions pertaining to national politics.”

For example how many of you can name your Congressional Representatives from MA in the House of Representatives?

The answer

Do not feel too badly, I had to look them up too. According to the Pew data, Americans have not gotten smarter when it comes to current events or the names of those who are involved in the making of those events.

“But a deeper analysis of the five identical questions asked in both 1989 and 2007 reveals a surprising pattern: Americans didn’t do as well in 2007 compared with how similarly-educated Americans performed in 1989. Across the board, scores declined significantly among college graduates, those with some college as well as for those with a high school education or less.”

News and Knowledge

“Nearly three quarters (73%) of those who say they don’t get news regularly from any news source fell into the low knowledge group – correctly answering an average of only six out of the 23 questions in the quiz. By contrast, about half of those who regularly use at least seven sources score in the high knowledge group – getting an average of 18 questions correct.”

“Internet news sources, National Public Radio, news magazines, and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show have the best educated audiences, with each of these having at least 36% of their regular readers and listeners having graduated from college.”

“Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions”, “What Americans Know: 1989-2007”, Pew Research Center, 15 April 2007. <http://www.people-press.org/2007/04/15/public-knowledge-of-current-affairs-little-changed-by-news-and-information-revolutions/>

The bottom line, according to the Pew data, is that Men are more aware of Political Current Events and the Key Players than Women, Elders are most aware than other groups, the more affluent tend to achieve the higher scores; however, it is the choice of where the participants obtained their News that had the greatest affect on overall scores.

“Half or more of the audiences for six media sources scored this high: the comedy news shows and major newspaper websites (54% in the high knowledge group), the NewsHour (53%), National Public Radio (51%) and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show (50%). Regular readers of news magazines were not far behind (48%).”

And yet Politifact corroborated the claim the 14 percent of Congress has a positive approval rate while 95 – 96 percent of Incumbents were re-elected in 2014.

“Congress has 11% approval ratings but 96% incumbent reelection rate, meme says”, Politifact, By Lo. Jacobson 11 November 2014. <http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/nov/11/facebook-posts/congress-has-11-approval-ratings-96-incumbent-re-e/>

“Reelection Rates Over the Years”

“Few things in life are more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives winning reelection. With wide name recognition, and usually an insurmountable advantage in campaign cash, House incumbents typically have little trouble holding onto their seats—as this chart shows.”

www.opensecrets.org/overview/reelect.php

Yet it is the mandate of the Forth Estate to educate the electorate on the political landscape, the issues, and the candidates! So who has failed whom? I found no articles written by Journalist admitting their failings. Which I find remarkable since they were all caught flatfooted and wrong by the 2016 election results. You would think that the pundits and journalists would own their mistake but no I have found not a one with that much integrity, unfortunately.

“Surveys have found that two-thirds of voters openly identify with either the Democratic or Republican parties and vote for candidates of that party the vast majority of the time. Of the remaining voters — “independents” — about two-thirds of them also favor one party over the other, and vote for candidates of that party the vast majority of the time.

In cases where incumbents are members of voters’ preferred party, voters may not be fans of the incumbent, but they see voting for the incumbent as a lesser evil than voting for someone representing the opposing party — which they likely see as the source of the problems to begin with. The effect of this is that in districts where a clear majority of voters are supporters of one party over the other — which is the case in most districts — incumbents of that party have extremely good job security. Districts that are closely divided are where most turnover occurs.

It seems, then, that Congressional job security is due to partisanship and voter ignorance.”

“Partisanship is therefore merely a symptom of the public’s inability to understand an enormously complex, vastly distant government — voter ignorance.

It is important to put this into the proper perspective. Citizens are expected to elect candidates at the national, state, and local level who are running for a wide variety of offices in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Once elected, each office holder will work on a wide variety of issues. In order to make informed voting decisions, voters need to understand the job responsibilities of each of these offices, as well as who the candidates are, what they represent, and what they have done in the past. This is an immense task — an impossible task — particularly for people who have busy lives full of more interesting and pressing things than following politics.”

Before Mr. Phillips came to his final paragraph and conclusion, which I will post below, he advocated and made the case for greater levels of Representative Government instead of our current Direct Democracy, where the electorate cast their ballots for whom they want as legislators. Personally, I feel it is incumbent upon each citizen to become politically aware of the issues and the candidates. Of course, that is easy for me to say being retired with little else to occupy my time.

“The results of the recent congressional elections should be a red light telling us that our government is not in the control of the people. This is a very dangerous situation. If people are unwilling to do something now, we will surely pay dearly for it in the not-too-distant future. We need to have a conversation about how to solve this problem. Please take responsibility yourself and send this article to others so that conversation can begin.”

“If Voters Hate Congress So Much, Then Why Hasn’t Any Incumbent Lost a Primary?”, The Atlantic, By B. RESNICK AND P. BELL, 21  MAY 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/if-voters-hate-congress-so-much-then-why-hasnt-any-incumbent-lost-a-primary/454392/>

“Presidential job approval ratings from Ike to Obama”, Pew Research, 12 JANUARY 2016, BY G. GAO AND S. SMITH <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/12/presidential-job-approval-ratings-from-ike-to-obama/>

“House seats rarely flip from one party to the other”, Pew Research, By D. DESILVER, 7 SEPTEMBER 2016. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/07/house-seats-rarely-flip-from-one-party-to-the-other/>

 

Regarding my second question, “How do we respect the Office of the Presidency when so many of us clearly do not respect the man in that office?” I can find few articles that discuss the issue of a Trump Presidency, save one; although, I am certain more will be written as his presidency unfolds:

“And remember, we won’t just be setting a bad example for our kids, but for our entire world.  Because for so long, America has been a model for countries across the globe, pushing them to educate their girls, insisting that they give more rights to their women. But if we have a President who routinely degrades women, who brags about sexually assaulting women, then how can we maintain our moral authority in the world? How can we continue to be a beacon of freedom and justice and human dignity?” ~ Michelle Obama

“Remarks by the First Lady at Hillary for America Campaign Event in Manchester, NH”, The White House Office of the First Lady, 13 October 2016. < www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/13/remarks-first-lady-hillary-america-campaign-event-manchester-nh>

Clearly I did not vote for Trump in November and try as I might I cannot respect or support the man, the Republican Platform he ran on, or the men and women he is placing in positions of power within his Administration. This leaves me with only one alternative and that is to work very hard and diligently to highlight the failures of the Trump Administration, work to undermine the more dangerous policies that his administration attempts to put forward, and to work toward flipping the House and Senate to a more Liberal and Progressive Body in the 2018 Mid-term Elections.

On the other hand, there is a plethora of articles concerned with the disrespect shown toward Barrack Obama as President during the last eight years.

“It’s not about how much they disagree with his policies (although they definitely DO disagree with ALL of his policies), or how left-wing-liberal-Democrat-Communist he is (although they DO think he’s a left-wing-liberal-Democrat-Communist), but it is really about refusing to accept his legitimacy.  As if acknowledging his presidency would put a stain on the history of such noble Republican presidents as Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and George Bush (either one).  Republican politicians and pundits have had an incredibly difficult time acknowledging that Barack Obama is actually the President of the United States.”

Along with the documented instances of their flagrant disrespect.

“Obama’s Legacy: Most Disrespected President Ever.”, Your Law Scholar, By J. T. BEASLEY, 21  FEBRUARY 2016. < http://www.yourlawscholar.com/obamas-legacy-most-disrespected-president-ever/>

 

 

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