If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few months, it’s that once you tune into the election, you cannot tune out. Perpetuated by the dominance of 24-hour news channels and apps, it is unreasonably difficult to go a full day without hearing about Mitt Romney’s latest gaffe or having Barack Obama spam your inbox with donation solicitations. All other pressing national issues grind to a halt while we watch our political system at its best and its worst; its most ridiculous and its promising and inspiring moments. Amidst the cacophony of ideologues, pundits and anchors, however, we are losing focus of an equally important event that will run concurrently to the presidential election on Nov. 6 — Congressional elections.
A recent poll shows the amount of undecided American voters at approximately 3 to 5 percent of the overall electorate, showing just how divisive and polarized this election has been. Although the population is almost evenly split on which candidate to support, 90 percent of us do agree on the absolute uselessness of the 112th United States Congress. The root of our nearly universal distaste for Congress is indisputably justified, as our elected representatives passed a record-low amount of legislation this session — seemingly replacing compromise with pathetic partisan grandstanding at the cost of taxpayers’ welfare. The extent to which Congress has been corrupted and paralyzed by the influence of money, extremist ideologies and the veritable Republican nay machine reveals much about the nature of politics today and the marked dichotomy between the two most prominent visions of the future of our country. It also reveals a lot about us.
Regardless of the approval rate of Congress as an institution, voters are overwhelmingly supportive of their own representatives, and incumbents still enjoy a massive over 90 percent re-election rate. There appears to be a disconnect here, and it owes to the fact that we, as an electorate, do not question or second-guess our own elected officials enough. We assume they are fulfilling their obligations to their constituents, and election after election we vote them back into office to keep doing what they do, which is, apparently, nothing. The reason why our government, whether you agree with President Obama’s platform or not, cannot even try to effectively put millions of people back to work is because 535 individuals — with some exceptions — are unambiguously horrible at their own jobs. At any other company or factory in America, these people would be fired; why should the standards of employment for Congressmen and women be any different? The pervasive level of hypocrisy and irony in Congress is matched only by the apparent willingness of our representatives to let this sad state of affairs become the status quo. For those who continue to deny the venomous obstructionism by Congressional Republicans, do yourselves a favor and read about how the Senate GOP recently struck down a bipartisan, paid-for bill supporting job creation for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for no coherent reason. Then check if your Senator contributed to that travesty.
Our representatives have made it abundantly clear that accountability is not part of their job description and Nov. 6 will be a rare opportunity to prove them wrong. This upcoming election is our only chance in the next four years to exercise the significant power we have over these failed excuses for politicians. So take a break from laughing at Mitt Romney and learn about your representatives — we will all be better off.
Sameer Jaywant is a staff columnist. Email him at [email protected]