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ETpro's avatar

Will Congress ever return to sanity?

Asked by ETpro (34202 points ) January 5th, 2013

With a plethora of very real problems to solve like heavy long-term unemployment and underemployment, a looming crisis over the necessary debt ceiling increase, disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, targeted budget cuts to avoid the across-the-board cuts of the sequester, and so much more; wing-nut Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann authored the very first bill the 113th Congress passed. Yep, for the 31st time, the House approved an utterly meaningless resolution to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s meaningless because it stands no chance of passage in a Senate controlled by Democrats, and if by some miracle it reached the President’s desk, he would veto it. Republicans lack the votes in either chamber to override a presidential veto. So it’s the legislative equivalent of a petulant, spoiled child holding their breath till they turn blue when their parents happen to be blind and so completely unaware of their little darling’s odd coloration.

Can this dysfunctional Congress be fixed, or must we start all over again?

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16 Answers

Pingu's avatar

“Return?”

marinelife's avatar

Unlikely.

GracieT's avatar

What is really sad and frightening about this congress is that with the history of the people of the US, as @marinelife stated, absolutely nothing will change. We will continue to vote against our own self-interest.

Pachy's avatar

It distresses me to realize that I’ve come to believe this, but my view is that the divisiveness and extreme partianship in Congress are merely a reflection of the state of American society as a whole (the reasons for this are subject for another thread). I’ll quickly add that I feel very fortunate to have been born in America and have no patience with fellow citizens who say otherwise—but like the spread of guns, the spread of bipartianship and incivility are irreversible.

dabbler's avatar

We won’t even come close until there is serious campaign finance reform.
Then the people may come closer to actually electing congresscritters who will work for the interests of the electorate.

cazzie's avatar

Remember in ‘Alice through the looking glass’, she was asked if she would like another cup of tea, when she never had had one in the first place? That is what this question reminds me…. ‘Return to sanity?’ How can I have another when I haven’t had one at all?

I’m afraid that those seeking a rational and sane result from politics have a very long wait indeed.

burntbonez's avatar

Define sanity.

Linda_Owl's avatar

The beliefs of the Republicans & the Democrats are so far apart, that I cannot foresee even this new Congress being able to reach any kind of agreement that will actually help the American people. The Republicans have “Demonized” the poor people in America by defining them as being lazy & trying to secure a ‘free ride’ at the expense of the Republicans & the Republicans are doing their best to decimate our Social Services Programs. Unfortunately, the Tea Party Republicans managed to tap the deep pockets of wealthy Republicans & were able to achieve wins in several states in order to put Tea Party Republicans into the various State Legislatures & also they accomplished getting several Governorships in the various states in 2010. I am not saying that the Democrats are a better Party, some of them are just as bad as the Republicans – but, over-all, they seem to have more honor & compassion than does the Republican Party. Their Ideology is so far apart, I cannot conceive of them ‘returning to sanity’. I can only hope that the new Congress manages to stop the ‘silent filibuster’ & insist that any representative that is against a Bill must stand up in front of the assembly & say why it is a bad idea. We desperately need honest campaign finance reform & we desperately need to slash the Military / Pentagon Budget so the money can be spent on other things besides weapons & war.

bossob's avatar

I have been half-heartedly reading some history, and listening to historians on cable news, looking for indications that the state of our politics is part of a normal cycle, and that there have been times in the past when political contentiousness has been as bad or worse. There are some indications that that is the case, but it’s of little comfort when we’re in the middle of the mess.

I contend that the Tea Party didn’t find the fat cat conservative money, but that the Tea Party was the inevitable creation of the fat cats, that was several decades in the making, quietly behind the scenes. For me, it keeps coming back to rich corporations vs. the people.

I think that politics has become nothing more than orchestrated theater designed to keep the voters on the left and right pointing fingers at each other. If the voters are fighting each other, they aren’t paying attention to the ramifications of the policies that are being quietly enacted while we’re not looking. We have been divided, and we are being conquered.

ETpro's avatar

@Pingu, @burntbonez, @cazzie & @bossob Yes, return. Through much of US history, our Congress actually got things done, and worked more for the good of the nation than for the good of one political party. The only other time in American history when political divisions were this rancorous and gridlock so prevalent was in the buildup to the Civil War.

@GracieT It will take a lot of people waking up to change that.

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room I look forward to that other thread when we look at the societal reasons.

@dabbler Public financing of campaigns would be a major positive step.

Kropotkin's avatar

What puzzles me is that while the approval rating of Congress has reached its lowest levels ever, something around 20% I believe, people keep electing the very same congressmen who take part in this abysmally unpopular Congress!

bossob's avatar

@Kropotkin If you corralled all your school friends, so they were the only ones who could vote for you for student body president, you would be a shoo-in. That’s what state legislators have done with mandatory re-districting: they’ve redrawn the voting district boundaries to include as many voters of one color (red or blue) as possible. They’ve loaded up the districts with a majority of voters who are friendly to their respective parties. The people are inclined to vote for a representative of their preferred party, rather than the merits of the individual candidate him/herself. In a perverse way, the politicians have chosen their voters, rather than the other way around. It’s another example of how politicians have disenfranchised the American people by subverting the democratic process.

Disgusting, but legal.

ETpro's avatar

@Kropotkin I believe that @bossob has given you a good explanation. BTW, Congressional approval is far worse than 20%, it’s actually 12% now. Closed primaries add to the partisan gridlock problem. While over 40% of the US public are independents, not registered to either party, Republican primaries in particular are closed. Only registered Republicans are allowed to vote in the primary, and only the most partisan of those typically turn out for primaries, which are notoriously low-participation elections. Add to that the redistricting that @bossob mentions, and you have a system rigged to become ever more partisan and hate driven.

I just listened to this fascinating TED talk regarding how non-partisan the real US electorate is. It’s worth the few minutes it takes to listen to the video. Rather warms the heart. Now the question becomes how to get a Congress that reflects the centrist views of the real American public.

bossob's avatar

@ETpro Political operatives seem to agree that it’s more effective and sustainable to get voters to rally against something, than to support something. The key to changing Congress is to get voters, across the spectrum, sufficiently pissed off that the parties have been slowly but surely disenfranchising us. Unfortunately, that concept is not sound bite material. We need a simple, clever, subtle, distracting concept that would fire up the voters, yet accomplish the same objective.

Along the lines of the Tea Party movement; they’ve been played by maestros.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

No; as I’ve said elsewhere, I think the system is irretrievably broken. All we can do is try to mitigate the damage as much as we can, and work on rebuilding political sanity at the local level. This is crucial, because politicians in Congress started at the local and regional levels, so if change is to be effected, that’s where it has to begin. By insisting on accountability at home, maybe we can prompt some changes up the ladder, so to speak.

ETpro's avatar

@bossob & @AngryWhiteMale Thanks for very reasonable comments.

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