Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fully 20% of Americans approve of Congress

It seems like a high number to me, but polls show that 20% of Americans approve of Congress and only 70% disapprove.

The public has lost some of its commitment to democratic process.  After all, it doesn't seem to work.

Here is a chart showing Gallup's numbers, taken monthly:
Job Approval by Gallup polling

Our core democratic institution, the legislative branch laid out in Article One section of the Constitution, is failing conspicuously.   Voters are sick of it.  

What Americans just witnessed was the US Senate trying to pass something, anything, that would save face for Trump and the GOP generally.  They were not trying to make good laws, to make a more perfect union or provide for the general welfare.  They were trying to deal with a political problem: they had succeeded by attacking the ACA--Obamacare--because everything that exists in the real world has compromises and problems and they had pointed out those problems and promised to fix them and replace the ACA with something better.

They cannot.  Every change actually makes something worse.

The Senate finally tried to pass "the skinny bill", which left the Medicaid expansion in place but allowed states flexibility to authorize high deductible policies that didn't include maternity or prevention and public health issues.  It also ended the individual mandate, which would mean that insurance markets would collapse.  The CBO said premiums would go up, insurance companies would drop out, and 16 million people would become uninsured.

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, and John McCain were being induced to vote for the bill by being promised that--don't worry--the bill will positively not become law.   Senator Lindsey Graham called the bill "a fraud" and a "disaster".  He said, “I’m not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and horrible politics just because we have to get something done."  He eventually did vote for it, along with multiple others who were assured that the bill they were passing would fail to get through the House. 

Voters are ready for authoritarian government. Click Here.
Return to the status quo prior to the ACA was a political impossibility.  Hospitals said they would go bankrupt; health care providers of all kinds said it would be a disaster; the white blue collar voters who are thought to be the swing voters in the 2016 who elected a Republican president would be shoved off Medicaid.  Obamacare existed because it solved big problems, even though in the compromises and readjustments of the real world it implementation caused new ones, but smaller ones.

The public sees disfunction.   Their legislators promised them a solution.  They would fix the problems of Obamacare and replace it with "something terrific", something more comprehensive, less expensive, simpler, and better.  They were promised something impossible and the legislators knew it.  Now the public is understanding it.

Politicians are not stupid.  They are passing the blame:  The House can blame the Senate.  The Senate can blame the Freedom Caucus.  Everyone can express disappointment with McConnell and Trump.   Trump knows to blame Obamacare and hopes that he can sabotage it without "the fake news" noticing it.

Congressional disfunction and public disapproval helps explain Trump's appeal.  Back on December 11, 2015--before he had won a single election and back when he was considered a joke and not a long shot--this blog reported that Donald Trump was the person who had connected with the American mindset.    

Click Here. I saw it coming.
This blog said:   "Trump is on to it and expresses it most clearly: contempt.   Contempt for the current president, contempt for government leadership of both parties, contempt for weakness in every institution that has let American get taken advantage of."

Contempt.  Americans had lost faith in American democratic institutions.  They welcomed someone who channeled their own impatience and contempt and projected that he would do something about it.  

There is appeal to the rule-breaker who thinks outside the box. Alexander the Great proverbially was shown a rope tied into a large and complicated rope.  His challenge was to untie it.  He pulled out a sword and cut through it in a single deep slash.  He broke the rules but solved the problem.   Like Alexander, Trump presented himself as a strong, decisive rule breaker and problem solver, someone who didn't worry about the old fashioned system in place.

Republican candidates gushed over Putin
It is deeply un-democratic, but old rules and norms lost their credibility and appeal.   The solution with appeal was not more constitutionalism, it was more authoritarianism.  Putin became a Republican hero and candidates were open about it.

This blog noted back in the spring of 2016, when multiple Republican candidates were in the primary race, that we were watching "the Putin primary."  Candidates commended his strength and can-do attitude.  He handled his opposition, clearly and decisively.  He got things done.  

Republican crowds responded to candidate speeches.  Putin was a hero, Obama was weak and "feckless" 

Meanwhile, Democrats.  The public may not be ready for Medicare-for-all, but they are certainly ready for simplicity and action.  Democrats may put that idea out there as the simple, clear, fair fix.  It will infuriate the health insurance industry.  

There may be opportunity to do an Obamacare fix.  If an Obamacare fix using Democratic and moderate Republican votes comes to pass, it will be a mixed bag politically for Democrats.    Trump would claim victory as a bi-partisan leader and Trump would be shown to have been a legislative leader, even if it takes place after he had urged Obamacare's elimination, not its improvement.  Democrats may be dealt the hand where they have no choice but to defend democratic principles.   Democrats could win the policy war and lose the political one.

Democrats have a consolation.  Trump is decisive but careless.  He is politically safe politically when he attacks Hillary, but he has taken on Jeff Sessions and the GOP legislators generally.  The very bull in a china shop behavior that his base thinks it wants creates lots of collateral damage among Republican allies. Trump doesn't think he needs the credibility and support of GOP officeholders, but he does.  Without their support Trump's behavior gets re-defined in the public eye.  He is no longer a hero for America and his actions are no longer patriotic.  They become redefined as matters of political survival and self aggrandizement.  


  1. 1. Sure, the Gordian knot. The Sun King even looks like blonde Alexander the Great. Problem is, what if he strikes the knot with one fell blow, and the blade ricochets and cuts him in the foot? That's what's actually been going on, since Inauguration Day. He looks worried and cornered. How does that grab his base? His main political problem, it seems to me, is that he looks like a buffoon. He goes to an international conference and the other leaders simply talk among themselves while he sulks on his own. And it's not that in domestic politics he's doing any better, except for being at the center of attention.But it's increasingly negative attention.

    2. "weakness in every institution that has let Americans get taken advantage of?" How exactly have Americans been taken advantage of, in the last 15 or 20 years, pray? I was under the impression that the Americans had been gobbling up a dozen countries, in the last couple of decades, from the bits of former Yugoslavia to the Greater Middle East, as Wolfowitz used to say. From Central Asia to the shores of Tripoli.

    3. The public has lost some of its commitment to democratic process. After all, it doesn't seem to work.

    As Churchill used to say, democracy is the worst possible system of government, except for all the others. It does not necessarily always protect from waves of hysteria and other irrational, lemming-like social forces.


  2. The giant and the pygmies — a fable for our times

    A giant was striding through the world, looking for enemies.


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