Sunday, February 26, 2006


Opinions about Congress: one of life's mysteries

Grteat comedy shows like The Daily Show and, now, The Colbert Report, are rarely wall-to-wall laughs. When you hear second-hand accounts about their content, it's never the dull stuff or the incessant commercial interruptions, so there's always a certain level of reality-based disappointment when you watch it and find the brilliant moments are scattered and take up maybe 5-8 minutes of the half-hour show.

Nevertheless, moments of brilliance there are, and I greatly admire the satirical genius of Colbert's regular segment, "Better Know a District," in which he interviews members of the House of Representatives. I had wondered what the congresspeople think of being satirized to their faces, and today's NYT story on "Better Know a District" explained. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "the only thing worse than being made fun of on Comedy Central is not being made fun of on Comedy Central." Or "there's no such thing as bad press."

The story dutifully reports one half of one of the great paradoxes of our time: the fact that over 60% of the American public has nothing but disdain for Congress.

Such dissatisfaction with Congress might spell good news for Democrats regaining a majority, since you think it would give challengers an edge. But that's not how it works, and I personally hold out little hope that Dems will retake Congressional majorities any time in the near future unless some disaster occurs that can only be blamed on Congressional Republicans.

The other half of the paradox, is that incumbent members of Congress win something like 98% of the time. How do you square that with the 60% disapproval rating of Congress overall?

I wish the pundits would explain when presenting their poll data, but they never do. My working hypothesis is that the public's dissatisfaction is directed toward the other members of Congress, not so much one's own.

Is one of the points of Colbert's congressional district highlights showing us about how "redistricting" looks? I mean, each of the congressional districts shown so far have very bizarre shapes that have nothing to do with actual geographic borders. (And I think my congressional district was the one he highlighted this past week; or it used to be - I can't tell anymore!)


zgdofec (zy-go-do-fek) the effect zygotes have on online message boards, especially during discussions about abortion rights.
Oscar - yep, people hate the Congress but love their Representative. On any attitude possible (are they corrupt, doing a good job, likeable, have your concerns at heart etc) people rate their Member of Congress far higher than the rest of the institution.

Why hate Congress? The argument is that people don't like to see the bartering, compromise, lengthy debates and procedural BS that is largely hidden from view for the Court or Presidency.
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