"People hate Congress, but people love their Congressman."

"People hate Congress, but people love their Congressman."


I’m reminded of this line from my first political science professor in the aftermath of my article chronicling the life of Rep. Ralph Hall. I’ve received a good deal of feedback from people, most of whom found Rep. Hall’s life story as interesting as I did. But so much of the feedback seemed to center on frustrations over the political system in general, so I thought I’d provide my take.


According to pollsters, about 7 percent of America approves of Congress’ job performance, and yet 90 percent of Congressional incumbents get reelected. How can that be?


The reason for the disparity is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Congress is and what it’s supposed to do. Congress was created by the founding fathers as a tough place to pass bills. Changes to federal law are supposed to be tough to achieve. It’s a place where 435 people are put in a room, and each of them is there to work for the benefit of their own constituents. More often than not, opinions in urban Detroit don’t match opinions in rural Kansas, and so round and round they go.


People love to say Congress is "broken," by which they usually mean that Congress is not accomplishing what they, individually, want it to accomplish. But Congress isn’t supposed to service one faction over another, it’s meant as a messy place where change can only happen by finding that mythical unicorn called "consensus."


There are many, many things about government and the federal government in particular that are, in fact, broken. After two-and-a-quarter centuries of legislation in this country — each bill tweaking this or shifting that — we have a canon of laws with which neither party is particularly happy. But the system was made with a purpose: stick with the status quo unless you can be darn sure the majority wants something different.


You hate Congress. I hate Congress. Ninety-three percent of America hates Congress. But until we can agree on exactly how we’d change it, Congress won’t change. In the meantime, we’re left with a system that chugs along more or less as intended, with each district’s local set of constituents saying the same thing: "Throw the bums out! (Except our guy. He’s great.)"


NATE STRAUCH is a reporter at the Herald Democrat. Email him at nstrauch@ heralddemocrat.com.