“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” — James Branch Cabell
With apologies to James Bond for borrowing his famous tag line, I would say that despite the deep divide within our Congress today, when put into historical perspective it’s bad, but not historically bad. We are shaken in our belief in the ability of the system to accomplish anything meaningful, but we are not stirred to action to undo it or, seemingly, to even vote for someone new. It is however, no less frustrating that important, if not easy, issues get side-tracked over partisan political bickering. (Of course like many of us that take to the internet to blog, I think that all right thinking people will agree with my view of things.)
Recent opinion polls rating Congressional job approval are abysmal with an average across five different polls of 15.8% approving and 76.2% disapproving of the job that our representatives in Congress are doing. The President’s approval ratings are better (46%) but still historically lower than average for this point in a president’s term, at least since Gallup began polling in 1938.
But keep it all in perspective because we often forget as a nation that the absolute worst period in our history has to be the years leading up to and including the Civil War. We may have a war of words in the political circles of our capital, but no one is talking about secession. Or at least no one that the main stream citizenry takes seriously.
It wasn’t just the Civil War. In the period immediately following our independence serious disagreements existed among our Founding Fathers as to how the country should be run. Washington and Adams were Federalists with a distinct view of how government needed to operate to preserve our hard-fought independence. The Republicans (a different flavor of political party in those days), represented by Jefferson, avowed that as president he would undo nearly everything his predecessors had implemented in forming a new government and differed greatly on how it should operate. (As with many politicians, reality set in once in office and he found that much of what took place before him could not, and should not, be undone without hurting the country more than the sting of his distaste for some of their policies — also true today.)
When did this letter arrive at the White House?
“You have brought the government to the jaws of destruction. I do not undertake to say whether by supineness, timidity, or enthusiasm. The effect is certain.”
According to Jon Meacham in his award-winning biography of Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power) those words were written in February 1809 to the President as he was preparing to leave office. There were more from people of many walks of life that were even more critical of his time in office.
Even our Founding Fathers found that politics in the United States is a full contact sport. The nature of our democracy (often grossly misunderstood by adversaries past and present) is that we are a contentious people as we strive to make our country better. Our history and current events support that view.
But, come on guys and gals. Seriously. I think you can do a lot better than 16%.