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Unpopular, and re-elected

Nearly 70 percent of those polled by George Washington University disapprove — 59 percent strongly so — of the job Congress has been doing this year.

Disapproval fell almost equally on Democrats and Republicans. President Barack Obama had a 50 percent approval rating, which, given the antipolitician fervor, is close to sainthood for an incumbent.

But he isn't running this year. Most members of Congress are.

And that brings up a perverse point about these polls. If these people are so unpopular, how did they get to Washington?

After all, they won a popularity contest for their job — what we call an election — and for House members that was only 16 months ago, not much time to go over to the dark side and have more than half your constituents hate you.

It's not like the local board of elections goes to the bottom of the ballot and sends the candidate who finished dead last to Washington. If that were the case, we'd have a bunch of lawmakers in tinfoil hats bumping into the furniture and ranting about U.N. plots and FEMA concentration camps. Maybe this fall. Who knows?

And why all this anti-Washington sentiment? As a Washingtonian, let me say that we didn't choose these people. You did. You sent them here. The District of Columbia doesn't even have a real member of Congress, and the ones from the neighboring Maryland and Virginia suburbs seem like a perfectly pleasant group of people.

In fact, they're a little too nice. The next time some idiot out-of-towner comes to Washington and starts screaming "Marxist!" at people, he should be hauled off to the D.C. jail and forced to read Karl Marx's Das Kapital. All four volumes of it. Every single leaden, turgid word. By page 50 of Volume 1 he'll be begging to be waterboarded instead. But we digress.

Maybe this November will be different. A Gallup poll earlier this month said 65 percent believe most members of Congress don't deserve to return to Washington. Less than half — 49 percent — said they would vote to re-elect the incumbent from their district.

But history suggests they don't really mean it and the same people will be coming back. Typically, more than 90 percent of incumbents are re-elected. Voters' memories are notoriously short and the economic recovery is picking up momentum.

The months between now and November could unspool like that old joke about country music played backward: You get a job, your house comes out of foreclosure, the dog comes home, the kids start behaving and the government drops off a brand-new Cadillac in your driveway as thanks for your forbearance in putting up with the bailout.

Really, what we ask of our politicians is very simple: We want a lot of services and benefits and we don't pay much money for them. Do that and I think we can let bygones be bygones.

© 2010 Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

Unpopular, and re-elected 04/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 5:30am]
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