On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Patience Wears Thin

ARCHIVES
Voters seem to be channeling baseball's Casey Stengel these days, echoing his memorable lament, "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Last fall, the American people rather robustly threw the Republicans out -- ending their control of the House and Senate because of disenchantment about the war in Iraq, scandals, high government spending and deficits, and a perception that the GOP in Congress had grown arrogant and out of touch.

Now the Democratic-controlled Congress seems unable to change the course of U.S. involvement in Iraq; the party has enacted just one of its top six priorities into law (a minimum-wage hike); and the immigration deal has collapsed. The public's patience with the Democrats is wearing thin.

Charles Franklin's trend estimate on Pollster.com -- a fairly sophisticated, very reliable but slow-motion version of a moving average -- shows that Congress's job-approval rating has dropped to 31 percent from about 34 percent earlier this year. But a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll conducted after the immigration bill stalled in the Senate put Congress's approval at 27 percent, with disapproval rising to 65 percent.

These numbers suggest that Americans disapprove of the job the Democratic Congress is doing just as strongly as they disapproved of the performance of the GOP Congress last year. And the Los Angeles Times' congressional approval rating is the lowest it has been in that poll in a decade.

In that L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, just 29 percent of respondents agreed that "Democrats are working hard to bring fundamental change," and a whopping 63 percent thought instead that Democrats were "governing in a business-as-usual manner."

Although a January L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a 34 percent positive job-approval rating and a 21 percent negative rating, her ratings in the new poll were 36 percent positive, 39 percent negative.

Even though the Democrats can take some solace in Franklin's computations that give Republicans in Congress a lower job-approval rating (35 percent) than congressional Democrats (38 percent), elections are referendums on the party in power, not the party out of power. Nevertheless, Democrats can also find comfort from the public's 64 percent disapproval of congressional Republicans, compared with only 47 percent disapproval of the Democrats in Congress.

On "Fox News Sunday" recently, moderator Chris Wallace grilled Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., on the Democratic agenda items that seem stuck somewhere in the legislative process. Durbin had plausible explanations for why each had not been enacted into law, but the bottom line is that the Democrats have achieved only one of six major goals.

Granted, the 110th Congress is only five months old, but -- to clean up an old expression -- excuses are like rear ends; everybody's got one and they all stink. Democrats need to get more points on the scoreboard soon -- or get better at explaining why they haven't yet been able to do what they said they would.

On immigration, it is true that the issue touches a much rawer nerve within the GOP base than it does among Democrats. And those who are vehemently opposed to anything that they can portray as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants should be (but aren't) unhappier over the immigration bill's collapse than anyone else is. Nevertheless, most Americans -- and even most Republicans -- support most elements of the bill. Furthermore, voters will blame Congress as a whole for failing to do anything about the nation's immigration problems.

CNN commentator (and fellow National Journal columnist) William Schneider suggests that the major elements of the immigration bill would have an easier chance of passage if they were broken apart. Yet the authors of the Senate bill seem convinced that they will achieve a "grand bargain" and find 60 votes to move the comprehensive bill forward. Well, that clearly hasn't worked so far. So maybe they should try Schneider's approach, just for grins.

A key Democratic leader privately warned a couple of months ago that Democrats could not rely on the situation in Iraq -- no matter how enormously hurtful it is to Bush and the GOP -- to hand the next election to the Democratic Party. Voters want congressional Democrats to move the ball forward on many issues, he maintained. The latest polling suggests that he was absolutely right.

 
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.