Saturday, May 21, 2005

Why Americans, Who Hate Congress, Love Their Own Representatives

Ann Althouse, noting the diminishing regard of the public for the US Congress, as noted in an article in today's New York Times, says that personally, she'd rather see pics of Saddam Hussein in his underwear than watch the bickering that passes for debate in the Congress. While I'm inclined to agree, I've also noted something which I discussed in a comment on Althouse's fantastic blog:
It's become conventional wisdom, one supported by polling data, that people disdain the Congress--presently, they do so at an alarmingly high level--but love their own Representative. I've found this to be true in every congressional district in which I've lived.

Here in the Second Congressional District in Ohio, we're without a Representative at present. Ours, Rob Portman, was recently made US Trade Representative. We're holding a special primary in June and a special general election in August. Rob Portman was absolutely loved here, routinely pulling 70% of the vote every two years.

My guess is that people love their members of Congress--at least on the House side--for two reasons:

(1) Most districts are severely gerrymandered, meaning that there's a high probability that a congressional representative will reflect the party affiliation and worldview of the overwhelming majority of her or his constituents. They're built-in cheering sections for their representatives.

(2) Members of Congress who are successfully re-elected have a hand in bringing some pork to their districts. Americans hate pork in the federal budget. But money and projects that their Representatives bring to their communities aren't budgetary pork to them. They refer to pork as "set-asides," federal largesse they regard as legitimate expenditures to strengthen their communities and the country as a whole, money to which they're entitled. So, they especially love the Congresswomen and Congressmen who rain federal revenue on them. (That's why the upcoming fight over the proposed military base closings is going to be so messy.)

I wish I hadn't seen Saddam in his underwear. But, I grant you, that may be preferable to seeing the infantile posturing of Congress.

As long as we Americans allow ourselves to be bought off by politicos bearing pork though, we're apt to be left with the sort of Congress we have right now. Sigh.

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