A fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a 37 percent approval rating for Congress, which prompted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to observe: "The approval rating of this Congress is now down to what we believe is the lowest recorded point in polling history, having apparently squandered whatever political capital they may have achieved with the American people last November the 7th in a record short period of time."
Why, in historically ranking the rating, did the Republican senator insert the oddly placed "what we believe is"? Because it ain't so; because last October, with Republicans in corrupt charge of both houses, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll put Congress' approval rating at less than half of today's (16 percent), which was, in fact, "the lowest recorded point in polling history." Mitch was only permitting himself some of that wiggle room reserved at his party's Department of Severe Memory Loss, which is a rather nasty Republican habit, one of many that put them back in the minority.
Nevertheless the minority leader's comment about Democrats "having apparently squandered ... political capital" approached some level of truth, although things aren't quite as bad for the one party over the other: "46 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Democrats in Congress are doing, 34 percent say they approve of the congressional Republicans' performance."
What's more, if anything is genuinely "apparent," it's that as much disarray reigns in the electorate's preferences as in the Democratic Congress: "Iraq is the dominant theme, but no clear consensus emerges about what Congress should do. About half of Americans ... said that Democrats have done too little to push Bush on his war policy. Others said in interviews that Congress has neglected domestic issues while focusing on Iraq."
"Neglected" is perhaps a bit strong, since of the six domestic issues slated for attention by Democrats last fall, half have been acted on: "an increase in the minimum wage, enactment of new homeland security recommendations and federal funding for stem cell research, which Bush vetoed." Furthermore, "Before the end of the week, Democrats are likely to make good on their promise to tighten rules on congressional ethics and lobbying," and "the House and Senate plan to pass a significant expansion of the 10-year-old federal health program to insure children of the working poor," which Bush will also veto, naturally.
Still, to the unending bafflement of many -- me included -- Congressional Democrats continue to miss the boat on health care. As Paul Krugman recently noted: "9 in 10 Americans -- including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans -- support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program." But that's not the half of it; for as Krugman has also noted in past columns, roughly 60 percent support national health insurance for all. It's the one, surefire domestic priority that could win Democrats life-long friends and voters, as did Social Security and Medicare, yet they sit and ponder and, in the end, do nothing.
For a while they can afford to do nothing, however, since their best vote-getter is, without a doubt, the Republican Party. Its 12-year regime of corruption, wrong-war boosterism and anticonstitutionalism was a political gift that will spit benefits for years to come.
And that was the best part of the Post's poll reporting, which quoted these two gentlemen of heartwarming disaffection:
Republican Dale Vaughn, 73: "The first thing I would have liked them to do is impeach [Bush]. They're not going to get anywhere trying to hold back funds or change his opinion with these silly all-night sessions. He's ignorant. He's not going to change."
Even better was Tad Pfister, "a former Republican county chairman in Nogales, Ariz.," who "acknowledged his disappointment with the Democratic majority, especially over Iraq, which turned him against his former party in the first place. But he promised patience, and he's not going back to the GOP. 'There's no way they can do anything to get out of Iraq. They're trying hard, but they can't succeed,' he said. 'We're just going to have to wait until next election and see a Democrat in the White House.'"
Now I'm under no illusions that a Democratic White House will recommence the millennium incompetence-free, or that a more sizable Congressional Democratic majority will suddenly wake up, for instance, to the vast reality that Americans prefer responsible health care over its mismanagement or absence. But seeing one Republican quoted as wanting Bush's butt impeached and another -- a "former Republican county chairman," no less -- gleefully anticipating a Republican president's retirement ... well, for the time being, it can't get much better than that.