By: Jim Brown, Jim Brown's Common Sense
With a national election only months away, the approval rate for members of Congress seems to be in free fall. Few constituents approve of the dysfunction taking place in the nation's capitol. Just 10 years ago, Congress had an approval rating of 65%. But no more. The most recent Harris and CBS polls show approval rates dropping to an all-time low of 9%. Like the guy sings in the Limbo Rock song, "How low can you go?"
Let me tell you just how bad it is. More Americans approve of polygamy than they do of Congress in Washington. At the height of the Gulf oil spill, BP had a shockingly low 16% approval rating. Even Paris Hilton has a 15% approval rating. And would you believe that 11% of those surveyed are OK with America becoming Communist? Just about every low-life trend or person you can think of does better than the legislators you and I send up to Washington.
When these polls are taken, there usually is a distinction between how voters view their own congressman compared to how they view Congress as a whole. But even that favorable local feeling is dropping. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed a strong majority of voters want to clean house, including their own congressman.
How can the system dispense with the prevalent influence of lobbyists on legislators? One suggestion is to bring our congressmen home. The idea was suggested recently on my syndicated weekly radio program by Tea Party founder Jenny Beth Martin from Atlanta, who was named by Time Magazine as the 15th most influential world leader a few years back. Jenny Beth simply wants to get Congress "out of Washington and back to the people." She proposes that we use the new technology of telecommunications to create a "virtual Congress."
The lady makes good sense. She suggests that elected officials spend more time in their communities. Constituents should be the ones with fulltime access to their members of Congress, and lobbyists should be the ones forced to stand "with their hats in their hands in order to gain access." She further makes the point that if millions of Americans can telecommute, why can't members of Congress attend committee meetings by video conference? If I can regularly Skype my grandkids, why can't my congressman add the big screen to his or her office, tune in meetings, the go back to handling problems of constituents right out of the home district?
During the time following the American Revolution, it was necessary for the original Congress to meet under one roof. Should a twenty-first century legislature be constrained by eighteenth-century technology? Why should congressional members have to rush away from their constituencies back to Washington just to cast votes? Shouldn't they belong in close proximity with those who elected them, not at high priced cocktail parties in Washington at the behest of rich special interest promoters?
As it is now, we might catch a glimpse of our members of Congress when they are interviewed on television. How refreshing it would be to see your congressman at various school events, or run into him or her at your local coffee shop. As Jenny Beth told me: "Back in their districts most of the time, these congressmen will be surrounded by skeptical constituents, rather than fawning supplicants. And they'll continually have to justify any political decision they make that's contrary to the will of the voters."
But there's nothing more important than reestablishing a closer relationship between the congressman and the people he or she represents. In the old days, it was called "retail politics." A handshake and face-to-face interaction. Let a voter blow off steam, or bring up what could be a good idea.
There is no patent for good "common sense" emanating from Washington these days. So come back home congressman, and listen and learn from those who elected you. Maybe, just maybe, your popularity will rise above being a polygamist.
"Members of Congress should be compelled to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers, so we could identify their corporate sponsors."
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown's syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim's nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com