The latest Zogby poll shows that only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. This is contrasted with Bush's underwhelming 29% approval rating. These polls show that Americans of all political stripes are losing faith in their government. Congress' all time low (prior to this poll) is 18% approval. Do we get to disband the government and write a new Constitution if it falls below 10%? For comparison, most foreign governments suffer a coup at these approval ratings.
The partisans on both sides will likely use this poll to show how the other party is ruining America. That's what they do and most people have adopted this approach. It doesn't matter who has the most coherent policy, it just matters how you can spin things to show the other party as a moral evil. This line of thinking misses the point.
The poll shows that the average American and the average politician are simply disconnected. The concerns of the average American aren't represented inside the Beltway and it shows that what's huge news on the cable news channels and in the latest partisan shouting matches isn't what matters most to Americans. And America is fed up.
It's not about a single issue, it's about the sum total of all the issues that America cares about that go ignored or are actively worked against by our politicians. Our candidates are pre-selected by party insiders where people who aren't "team players" (i.e. party hacks) are actively discouraged from running. Sure, they'll take your money but they want yes men in office.
We have representatives from every corner of this country in D.C. Yet all issues are effectively nationalized. How does a representative vote on a particular bill? With his caucus, not with the intentions of his constituents. There are rare exceptions, some of those are honest principled men, many are just media whores who like the press image of being a "maverick". And America is fed up.
This poll shows a population that is conditioned to think that the government will fix the big problems. The sub-prime mortgage fallout (which hasn't begun fully to set in) is a great example. Sure, we had banks with overly liberal lending habits that gave money away to people not likely to repay it. They should know better considering most every economic crisis in history was started by bad lending practices. However, the people taking out those loans aren't even on the radar. People don't think that the average citizen should be responsible for making bad economic decisions, it's the government's job to bail them out. Yet, the government consistently fails at doing so.
Katrina is another great example. Governmental failures abounded at every layer of government. The mayor did not use all the assets he had to protect his people. Over two-thirds of the police department walked off the job (and got free vacations to Vegas). Gov. Blanco and the Louisiana state government were more interested in embezzling disaster money than buying the equipment they needed. When it all came to a head because the governor and mayor did everything wrong, FEMA wasn't up to the task to clean up after them. The government told the people they would protect them, but it was the people who took care of themselves who came out of Katrina unscathed.
In every direction one looks, one can find a promise of government to help and that promise being broken. Corruption is rampant in both parties and the talking points that one party is more corrupt than another are simply absurd. Looking at the field of 2008 presidential contenders, it looks like it'll be more of the same. How much lower do approval ratings need to fall until Americans insist that things change?