The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Politics Out of Focus Congress & America’s Diverging Priorities

The American public doesn’t hate Congress as much as it used to, according to a new Gallup Poll. Just last year, Congress saw its public approval ratings plummet to their lowest levels in history as Americans expressed their frustration and rage over congressional dysfunction and gridlock along party lines. Read the summary of Gallup’s findings here.

Even more interesting, however, is this graph categorizing American prioritizing of national issues:

priority_and_dissatisfaction

It is particularly interesting that the previously hot button issues of the environment and energy policy both fall under the “low priority” category. Here is the clearest reason why the Green policy is such a botch: Americans don’t care, and to the extent that they do care, they’re mostly fine with the status quo. This is further evidence of the greens’ utter failure to craft a message that appeals to votersCertainly, the Greens won’t be too happy to hear that.

Similarly, immigration reform, gun policy, and government surveillance join the environment as “low priority” issues that have garnered intense Congressional debate in recent years. Issues that concern the public today most prominently are economic growth, affordable healthcare, public education, and poverty. Congress needs to get its priorities straight and focus on the topics that the American public is most focused on.

Published on February 23, 2014 3:00 pm
  • Andrew Allison

    Yet another example of how utterly out of touch Congress is with the desires of its constituents.

  • rheddles

    There would be a strong correlation between congress and the MSM, or academia or fortune 500 CEOs.. This is really one facet of a strong disconnect between the elite and the common man.

    • Andrew Allison

      Not quite. The rate of incumbent re-election suggests that there is no penalty for failure (other than getting caught with your pants down, and even then not necessarily): you can bankrupt the country while enriching yourself with impunity. Term limits now!

  • Anthony

    Congressmen (generally) perform constituent service for the many while making policy for the few. In many instances, they do small favors for small people and large favors for big people while indifferent to category of both high and low priority among average voter beyond lip service. “Behind Congress there stands the entire corporate social order, with its hold over the economic life of the nation and the material resources of society; its control of information and mass propaganda; its dominant influence over most cultural and social institutions; its well-placed policymakers, organized pressure groups, high-paid lobbyists, influence-peddling lawyers, and big money contributions.” For many a U.S. Congressman, it is those priorities that matter.

    • Andrew Allison

      Would that they were indifferent to for whom they are providing services. In practice, it’s “how will this help me get reelected.”

  • mgoodfel

    Match this up with a survey of knowledge of various issues. Everything I’ve seen says the public is completely clueless. And if the economy improved, all these priorities would change.

    • Andrew Allison

      It is the duty of Congress to REPRESENT the people, clueless or not.

  • Mark Michael

    Fred Siegel’s latest book, “Revolt against the Masses – How liberalism has undermined the Middle Class,” (c2014) gives an interesting insight into our elite journalist, artistic, academic attitudes towards really most of the rest of America: They look down their noses at them across the board. They’re snobs. I’m only one-third of the way thru the book (p. 71 of 212) – commenting on it is premature, but I will anyway!

    It traces the real origins of modern liberalism to the Roaring Twenties when the GOP controlled the White House and Congress and capitalism flourished. Ordinary Americans were able to buy all sorts of new consumer goods – cars, radios, phonographs, electricity was becoming widespread, telephones, washing machines, etc. The masses could go to the movies, popular culture thrived. They utterly despised it – too crass, empty, embarrassing. They were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of World War I, Wilson’s failure as a Progressive to lead us into the League of Nations and then when the D Party lost to Warren Harding & Coolidge in 1920, that was the last straw. The Progressive movement here at home was stymied. They ended up sitting on the sidelines until the Great Depression came along and FDR won the White House. They used that period to coalesce their ideas into what we now think of as modern liberalism. It was as much (or more) from an artistic and cultural dimension as economic and political. They were much more at home, comfortable, with European culture, art, organization, style of living than American. Link:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Revolt-Against-Masses-Liberalism/dp/1594036985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393234679&sr=8-1&keywords=Revolt+against+the+masses+-+fred+siegel

    The Amazon reviews do a much better job of describing the book than my feeble attempt above. So read those if you’re interested.

  • qet

    Apropos mgoodfel’s comment, imagine the following: Congress reads Via Meadia and decides to take its advice and get its priorities straight on the basis of the data revealed in the graph; bills addressing the economy, medical care, etc. are crafted and introduced; they are being negotiated and are wending their way through How a Bill Becomes Law, when suddenly, out of nowhere, another Gallup Poll appears; the new poll reveals a re-ordering of the priorities of the American people: what does Congress do now? Scrap all the current bills and start over? De-appropriate funds it has just appropriated? Does the answer depend on whether the poll appears in an election year, and on its proximity to the month of November? What if the new poll (like the recent NYC poll) appears just after an election has installed a right-leaning Congress, and reveals a preference for left-liberal policies? Which do we believe is the true vox populi?

    • Jim__L

      “Scrap all the current bills and start over?”
      Not a bad idea. Scrap some regulations too, while you’re at it.

      “De-appropriate funds it has just appropriated?”
      A very good idea. We’re already spending money we don’t have.

    • Andrew Allison

      There’s a simple, albeit very hard to get implemented, solution: elected officials receive no pay for the remainder of their terms if there’s a federal budget deficit, and appointed officials get fired if they exceed their budgets or are found to have allowed “use-it-or-lose-it” expenditures. The only way to kill the monster which the federal government has become is to starve it to death.

      • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

        This is funny stuff.

        Above, you freely admit that “the permanent political ruling class have insulated themselves and their patrons
        from the effects of the laws they pass”. And this is absolutely true.

        And yet somehow, by magic, you seem to think the permanent political ruling class is going to stop its own paychecks? You think they’ll fire themselves if they exceed their budgets? Huh.

        Seriously, now: who do you think is going to “starve” the monster? Be specific. I mean sure, it’s a great concept, but the ONLY constitutionally-recognized entity that can accomplish any of this is the States, united, independent of the federal government, acting in their sovereign capacity as the sole grantors of authority to the federal government. And the only way they can legally pursue this is through ratification of a constitutional Amendment, independent of the federal government, which outlines how the federal government is to be replaced, in toto, when it has exceeded its constitutional authority.

  • brad lena

    In the modern era the political ruling class have insulated themselves and their patrons from policy issues that impact the public there is no disconnect

    • Andrew Allison

      If you mean that the permanent political ruling class have insulated themselves and their patrons
      from the effects of the laws they pass, I agree. We need a constitutional amendment to stipulate that Congress may not exempt itself or the executive branch from any law which it passes, and that any regulation issued by the executive branch applies to all branches of government.

      • disqus_MHw7a2dXsU

        Do you think a constitutional amendment would really do anything? We have a constitutional amendment that explicitly says that the federal government has only 17 powers delegated to it by the constitution (article 1, section 8), but that hasn’t stopped the federal government from getting involved with anything and everything. We’ve actually had congressman explicitly say they don’t care about the constitution. We’ve even had governors call for the suspension of elections.

        The primary problem is that Americans themselves don’t care about the constitution, nor liberty. There really is no other explanation for the state of American politics.

        • Andrew Allison

          No argument from me about the gross violations of the Constitution which have been permitted to occur. I would, however, argue that this has largely been a result of the States selling their Rights for a mess of federal pottage. Countries get, in the case of the USA the state and federal, governments voters elect. The problem is that Americans keep electing people who care only about reelection. I see only two ways out: revolution (on the grounds of taxation without representation) or term limits.

          • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

            There’s a third option: re-boot the federal government.

            The several States ratified the Constitution that created the general government in the first place. As the sole grantors of ALL federal authority, there’s no reason at all that they can’t do a clean sweep of the current, dysfunctional mess and start over.

            http://bit.ly/1fn7GCD

          • Andrew Allison

            It is true that 34 States could request a Constitutional Convention. It is theorized that the States could call for a convention to consider specific amendments. You can bet your bottom dollar that strenuous efforts would be made to introduce additional ones (the dreaded “runaway convention”). Deciding that issue would inevitably be a job for the Supreme Court.
            Another problem is ratification. Congress has the power to choose between two methods of ratification: by the state legislatures, or by state conventions called for that purpose. State conventions present the same runaway risk as a constitutional convention and would likely fail, thus providing Congress with a means of preventing adoption of amendments it didn’t like.
            IMO the most practical solution is term limits, which would eliminated the drive to do whatever it takes to get reelected.

          • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

            “It is theorized…”

            Not theory at all. It’s a constitutional guarantee, right there in Article V.

            “Deciding that issue would inevitably be a job for the Supreme Court.”

            No. Deciding that issue would be the State Legislatures’ job, as the States are the entity that grants the Supreme Court all the limited authority it has.

            “Congress has the power to choose…”

            No, they don’t. They are bound (“shall“) to call a convention to consider any Amendment proposed by 2/3ds of the States’ Legislatures, per Article V. There’s no “choice” involved. A convention called by Congress, in fact, isn’t even necessary, since the States can ratify any Amendment they choose when 3/4ths of their Legislatures agree to its ratification:

            … Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States…

            Congress has no power to prevent adoption of an Amendment once 3/4ths of the States’ Legislatures have approved it, irrespective of the type of convocation used.

            And there’s no “runaway risk”. This is a red herring scare tactic used by TPTB and their Useful Idiots to frighten people away from their sovereign authority as citizens of a Republic.

            You will never, ever, ever get Congress to pass a term limit Amendment.

          • Andrew Allison

            I’m sorry, but I’m afraid your arguments are wishful thinking. Please review https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_to_propose_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitutionand
            (While there have been calls for a second federal convention based on a single issue such as the Balanced Budget Amendment, it is not clear whether a convention summoned in this way would be legally bound to limit discussion to a single issue)
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_Five_of_the_United_States_Constitution
            (an amendment must be ratified by either (as determined by Congress): the legislatures of three-fourths (at present 38) of the states; OR State ratifying conventions in three-fourths (at present 38) of the states.)
            In sum, the question of whether a States convention summoned for the purpose of considering specific amendments could be restricted is NOT determined, and Congress gets to decide the ratification process.

          • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

            I’m sorry, but I’m afraid your decision to cite WikiFreakingPedia on this issue has already demonstrated a total lack of the sort of critical thinking skills required to discuss this (or any other) issue.

            Try reading the Constitution for yourself. Try thinking for yourself. Try to figure out how the Founders expected the States to keep the federal government in check if all Congress had to do to avoid Amendments was refuse to “call” a convention.

          • Andrew Allison

            Are you illiterate, or simply blinded by your beliefs? I at no time suggested that Congress could refuse to call a convention, just that it has the Constitutional authority to decide how amendments get ratified. Unlike you, I have carefully read Article V and the issues around it.

          • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

            “Are you illiterate…”

            Heh.

            Nice ad hominem comeback. Considering your dependence on WikiFreakingPedia, and your demonstrated inability to think for yourself, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t consider it all that compelling, however.

            Nowhere in Art V is Congress granted the authority to decide anything, period. Congress can propose (“… may be proposed …”), that’s it. WikiFreakingPedia drones haven’t changed that fact.

          • Andrew Allison

            Re: Article V
            What part of, “. . . when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress” is unclear to you?
            What part of, “Unlike you, I have carefully read Article V and the issues around it.”?

          • http://www.agoyandhisblog.com/ AGoyAndHisBlog

            “I have carefully read”

            Heh. If you’re still relying on the drones at WikiFreakingPedia, clearly you haven’t read squat, much less understood it.

      • brad lena

        The rule of law to these people is a quaint anachronism likewise the constitution

  • stevewfromford

    Politicians are masters of picking the low hanging fruit whether constituents are interested in that particular fruit or not.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: Gridlock, Anyone?

    Don’t understand why this venue thinks—or gives the impression—that ‘gridlock’ in the Federal government is ‘bad’.

    Under the Obama [mis]administration, gridlock is GREAT! Otherwise, the Progressive-Liberals would be running even MORE rampant in their trampling of the Constitution.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [The Truth will out.....Obama and his gang are anti-American.]

  • Grandma

    Governments can’t focus on these priorities because the only thing they can do effectively in any of these is get out of the way – reduce expenditure and waste, deregulate, let people make their own decisions and get on with their lives. What elected representative is going to do that? And give up such a comfortable and self-righteous raison d’entre?

  • allencic

    I don’t think it matters at all to the politicians/elite in charge. Take climate change for example, virtually everyone knows it’s scientific baloney but at so many different levels there are so many pockets to be picked and so much money to be made that it will be pushed by those such as Obama and his minions that it will never die the logical death it should. As always, follow the money.

  • Eliza Qwghlm

    Looking at this chart, one would assume the only thing the government is good at is providing a military and security.

    • allencic

      So what’s your point?