None had anything good to say. Here's how it begins:
ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: These days, when I stop people in the street, there's this thing that happens all the time.
I'm a reporter with NPR in Washington. Anyone interested in talking about Congress?
BILL BELLMAN: Congress - there's nothing good to say.
SEABROOK: People's instant reaction to the mention of Congress is: Ugh, what a mess; there's nothing good to say.
Here's the audio.
She asked all these people how they felt about Congress, but SHE DIDN'T ASK:
"Are you going to reelect your own Congress Member?"
That seems to be the key problem. All the other guys are bad, but we like our own Congress Member.
Let's remember that the people in Congress got more votes than the other candidates, so the people to blame for Congress are those who voted for the winning candidates and those who didn't vote at all.
I've been voting against my Congress Member for 30 years, so, while you might say I've been ineffective, at least I'm not part of the group that's responsible for re-electing Don Young. But people like me need to work harder to retire the problem Congress Members.
Of course, you can pull all the dandelions you want, but more still pop up. Getting rid of bad Congress Members and reelecting new bad ones isn't the answer. We need to plant Congress with representatives who promise NOT to take pledges that restrict their votes and promise to work constructively with ALL the other Congress Members for the public, regardless of threatened political consequences. Better yet, there should be negative political consequences for being a hack and good ones for being a mensch.
Not all incumbents are problems. When they campaign, make them demonstrate how they worked with others, how they bucked the party when its dictates weren't for the good of the public, how they advanced, rather than blocked, needed legislation and confirmation of appointed officials, and how they did NOT play brinksmanship with the US budget and our country's credit rating.
Hold all candidates to reasoned cooperation. (Ask them how many members of the other party they had over to their home for dinner this session.) Hold them to voting for the long term benefit of the United States (and the world) and not to voting based on how they think it might affect the next election cycle. (Did they vote against needed legislation or to add toxic amendments so the other side had to vote no?) Their only pledge should be to vote for the needs of the public, not of their party, not of the lobbyists and their clients.
Do your homework. Check out your representative and senators. Here are some websites that give you information. Check different perpsectives:
The Washington Post's The US Congress Votes Database
Don't know who your congress person is? Who's My Rep? My Senator?
Big Marine Fish's Friend or Enemy of Fish?
C-Span's Researching Your Members of Congress
Congress Link's How Influential Is Your Member of Congress?
The American Conservative Union's Congressional Ratings
National Journal's Vote Rating 2010
ACLU's Congressional Scorecard
The Hill has Lists of Ratings from Different Groups for Each Lawmaker
Then ask your representative to explain his votes.
When you find a good candidate, you need to give her some money and some time.
Or, if there are no good candidates, run yourself.