Watching approval rating polls gives you a depressing stream of reminders as to just how horrible of a job the American people think the Democrats and Republicans in control of Washington are doing. We had a nice bump after 9/11, but it has taken a slow and steady downward path ever since. Even before that, there were signs that our citizenry weren't liking what they were seeing, with the increasing number of voters ditching their party registration and going independent, but it has gotten markedly worse in the last few election cycles.
For instance, a recent Rasmussen poll found that fully 68 percent of likely voters would vote to get rid of the "entire Congress" if they could. I wonder how much higher that number would be if they included those who aren't likely voters. Darn shame they can't put that on the ballot so we can find out.
It shouldn't be surprising, given another recent poll from Rasmussen, that shows that only 8 percent give Congress good or excellent mark; another that found 65 percent are either angry or very angry at "the current policies of the federal government." I'd love to meet those in that 8 percent there, and pick their brains to find out what they actually see Congress accomplishing that is worthy of high praise.
While I was looking around for related polling data, I even came across an amusing chart from last year that showed some things that the American people like even less than Congress. The only thing it found that was seen as worse was Fidel Castro, and just barely beating Congress out were "U.S. Going Communist" (11 percent) and "BP During the Oil Spill" (16 percent). Even Nixon had a higher approval rating in the midst of the Watergate scandal.
A poll from December highlighted how little people trust politicians anymore. They're tied, at a mere 7 percent approval rating, with Car salespeople and Lobbyists.
So who do we trust and admire, and where are we seeing innovation?
I'm not sure about you, but the first thing that came to mind for me was entrepreneurs and scientists, and an article I read a few days ago over at The Atlantic, about how they see places like Silicon Valley as where they can go to make a difference in the world, rather than Washington.
I completely agree. I've known a lot of entrepreneurial types, as well as a lot of political types, and frankly I can't stand most of the latter. You can find a lot of over-sized egos in both, but usually the worst you walk away with after talking with an entrepreneur is thinking that his or her idea doesn't make any sense and it probably won't make any money.
Scientists are also well-regarded in our society, and for good reason. While politicians are squabbling about energy issues in Washington, just this week a group of scientists developed a material that can turn water into hydrogen almost as well as platinum, and at around 1,000 times cheaper. In contrast, Congress will add over a 1,000 times more debt to the next generation's tax bills this year than the $1 billion Facebook paid for the mega-popular image sharing service Instagram.
Even among the most powerful political operatives I've had the pleasure (or, more often, displeasure) of talking to, most people dislike those who seem most political. So why don't more of our best and brightest get into politics, instead of going out to places like Silicon Valley? David Duncan at The Atlantic asked a similar question of Bill Maris, who heads up Google's venture capital arm:
I wonder, can you apply all of this energy, innovation, and optimism to Washington, D.C. and public policy?
That would be great, but I'm not hugely optimistic. Thinking about government policy sends shivers up my spine. The gears are grinding together in government, and it's slow and complicated and no one understands it.
The "energy, innovation and optimism" Duncan asked about is in reference to the way Google Ventures operates. They're a dynamic and results-oriented organization, while the Republican and Democratic parties are old, slow to adapt, insular organizations who go out of their way to grind the gears Maris mentions.
Maybe we can put a national ballot initiative out in a couple years, one that joins these two ideas: How about we vote them all out, and let the geeks have a go? Geek revolution 2014, or the Geek-ccupy Movement?
Yeah...not gonna happen. But I suppose I have some hope that later on, when younger guys like Maris get into their prime (older) years for people to get politically involved, maybe they will bring some of that sort of thinking to Washington, even if it's through their donations to outside organizations that better represent us. Our country is still fighting the same culture war that the Baby Boomers fought when they were younger. Maybe we'll get over that by the time my generation takes over Washington. One can hope.