OTHER VIEWS--Political system works
Most often, political persuasion determines how one looks at public opinion polls regarding the job approval ratings of the president and Congress. Committed Democrats, who tend to see President Bush as the worst president since Warren G. Harding...
Most often, political persuasion determines how one looks at public opinion polls regarding the job approval ratings of the president and Congress. Committed Democrats, who tend to see President Bush as the worst president since Warren G. Harding, nod approvingly at his job approval ratings below 30 percent. Dedicated Republicans, who seem to think the "D" attached to Democratic politicians stands for "demon," can get giddy over job approval marks for the Democrat-controlled Congress, which are lower than the president's.
But hardheaded partisan assessments of the polls are relatively worthless. Most surveys represent a broad-based sampling of public opinion among Americans, who are not wedded to one political party or the other. The dim views of the president and Congress have little to do with party, and a lot to do with the nonpartisan perception that the federal government can't seem to find pragmatic solutions to the nation's most pressing problems.
The numbers in job approval polls have been consistent for the last few years. They parallel results of surveys which routinely find that more than 60 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Political leaders, whether the tone-deaf Republican gang in the White House or the bumbling majority Democrats in Congress, take the hit. As they should.
It's not a bad thing.
U.S. politics is never static. Indeed, the nation regularly swings to extremes, the agenda often being set by extremists with megaphones. For example, the lunatic left has moveon.org and Hollywood; the ridiculous right has talk radio and the religious right. The bloviators on the far reaches of the political spectrum dominate political debate while the majority of Americans watch bemused, disgusted or disconnected. The political class -- the administration and Congress -- kowtow to what are kindly called "their bases," while the vast middle expresses its discontent via public opinion surveys.
Americans might be slow to act when they discover their government has been hijacked by either the left or right. After all, most of them reject such ideological boxes for themselves. The strength of our sometimes frustrating political system is that it eventually will respond to imbalance. It will correct itself. It will marginalize the extremists and move back to the moderate middle, where compromise and civil discourse are the catalysts for problem-solving.
That process has begun. The election of November 2006 was a clear indication that Americans had had enough of the arrogance and abuses of one-party power. Both houses of Congress flipped from Republican to Democrat, a result that surprised even the most seasoned political observers. The presidential campaign and 2008 election will be another barometer of the nation's mood.
The system works. It's quintessentially American: a complex, frustrating free-for-all that can be subject to appropriation and abuse by political bullies. In the end, however, the reliably moderate voice of American voters will call them to account.