Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Our 10% Congress 

In the title I'm referring to the approximate percentage of people who, according to the polls, view Congress favorably. Even in the face of such abysmal approval ratings--I'd wager that lawyers, used car salesmen and meter maids score higher--the chances are that there will be no material change in the makeup of Congress after the upcoming election.

I believe there are several reasons for this, the most important being rampant gerrymandering of Congressional districts to make them as uncompetitive as possible. Another reason is that even though people rate Congress as an institution unfavorably, most voters like their own Representatives and Senators (duh! they get elected by majorities, usually) and it takes a major scandal or some other seismic event to unseat an incumbent. A third reason is that (I believe) people tend to vote for names that they recognize if they really don't know much about the candidates. For example, a Kennedy in Massachusetts or a Bayh in Indiana will win because many voters associate the name with a predecessor whose policies or personality they liked. This must be true to a significant degree because every challenger worries about getting name recognition, and every incumbent sends out mailers to make sure the voters remember their names.

So, although the Reps may recover some seats, perhaps even regain the majority in one or both houses (not bloody likely) and the Dems may increase their majorities, the overall performance of Congress is not likely to change much, unless the Dems achieve a veto-proof and filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

If that should occur, you can expect Katy-bar-the-door enactment of all the pet Dem projects that they've been dreaming of since Clinton's first term, and given the Dem leadership you can expect them to ride roughshod over any Repub objections. The one silver lining in that situation will be that the Dems will not be able to blame the Repubs for anything that results, and that cold hard fact might cause some of them (the ones that actually care what happens to the country) to reign in some of their more ambitious impulses.

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