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Pessimism Nation

In a week in which an argument between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dominated the political headlines, a new survey offers a warning to all politicians that the American people have entered this campaign with a wholly cynical view of the political process.

The Battleground Poll is a long-running bipartisan project that has regularly taken the temperature of the electorate. The newest report, issued by Republican Brian Tringali of the Tarrance Group and Democrat Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, includes several startling indicators of a political system in distress.

Majorities of Americans believe most politicians are not trustworthy and hold an unfavorable view toward them in general. That was in line with what many surveys have shown.

Even more striking was the answer to the question of whether Americans believe their own member of Congress puts partisan politics ahead of constituents' interests. Fully 71 percent said partisan politics and 63 percent strongly hold that view.

Because Americans generally hold their own member of Congress in much higher regard than they do the institution -- and still do by most estimates -- the answer to that question shocked the team that produced the survey.

Lake called it "downright flabbergasting and a very, very serious warning" to all politicians that the national political environment is highly unstable. "It's a warning to all the candidates that they have to straddle these two worlds: effectiveness and not being an insider," she said.

Tringali said he and Lake were equally struck by the pessimism they found about the future. A plurality (38 percent) believe their children will be worse off in the future and only a third said they "think their own children will be better off than they are right now -- a drop of 7 points since January."

Tringali noted in his analysis of the findings that it would be "hard to overemphasize" what a sea change this represents in the attitudes of a country that long has prided itself on its optimism.

More surprising is where the pessimism is most intense: among white Americans rather than African Americans or Latinos. Tringali said pluralities of African Americans and Latinos believe their children will be better off than they are. Only 29 percent of whites believe that will be the case; 38 percent believe their children will be worse off.

In the past, Lake said, it was parents without college educations who tended to be more pessimistic about their children's futures. Now that has spread to parents with college degrees. "Blue collar parents think my kids may lose their jobs to Mexico and white collar parents think my kids will lose their jobs to India," she said.

The war in Iraq, violence in the broader Middle East, fears of global climate change and the unsettling effects of global economic competitiveness all contribute to making this a period of extraordinary unease among the electorate.

What are people looking for? The Battleground Poll, which is co-sponsored by George Washington University, asked which qualities they prefer in their politicians:someone who is willing to find "practical, workable solutions" or someone who exudes "strength of values and convictions." By 2-1, those surveyed said they want someone working to get things done.

Could that be a backlash against President Bush's governing style? After the 2004 election, strategists argued that the voters had rewarded the president for being clear about his convictions, even if they didn't always agree with his policies.

This poll suggests weariness with politicians who appear inflexible, particularly when things aren't going well in Iraq or elsewhere. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found eight in 10 Americans said 'no' when asked whether they believed Bush was willing enough to change positions on Iraq.

The other finding of note in the Battleground Poll was growing disenchantment with Democrats in Congress. Tringali called it "an awfully short honeymoon" for a party that just took over the House and Senate in January. Lake noted, "Voters voted for change and still haven't gotten that."

The clash between Obama and Clinton may make good sense to those in the middle of it, but the survey provided a timely reminder that the landscape in this campaign is extraordinarily unstable. Points scored today may make candidates and their handlers feel good today, but there could well be a long-term cost in deepening attitudes among voters who already hold these politicians in low regard.

--Dan Balz

By Post Editor  |  July 27, 2007; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take  
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And Also Votes

Comments

It irritates me when people say that only the crooks run for office when it is completely untrue. It is true that only the crooks get elected but that is because we the people keep voting for them over the better candidate.

Ron Paul has about 1% of the vote from his party, and Mike Gravel has 0% from his. Why is that? Could it be because we prefer the snake oil salesmen? We have shown time and again that the American voters choose the candidate who looks the part over those that would do the best job. When Ron Paul told the truth by saying that terrorists do NOT attack us because they hate our freedom but because of blowback he was booed. When Gulliani acted like a petulant child and said that he never heard such an absurd statement he was applauded. Gulliani should have been immediately disqualified for saying that, as it shows he has an incapacity to think critically, or that he is a complete liar.

Also, there is no excuse for non-participation in a presidential election. It happens once every 4 years and takes 15 minutes to pull that lever, and maybe a few hours of research beforehand to figure out whos name should be on that screen. If everyone who was eligible to vote did so we would have a different government that truly represented the people. Anyone who doesnt vote or participate in some way forefeits their right to speak ill of the nations leaders. If you do not vote then you are not a part of the system and therefore you do not have any representatives. That is how an indirect democracy works. In Athens those that did not participate in the government where called idiotus, the root of the word idiot. I couldnt agree more.

Posted by: bklynjerm | September 4, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

To Grassrootguy

I know my congressman, I go to his townhouse meetings. I write my senators and my congressman ALL the time.

By the way, I forgot to mention, have you heard about the bill they are sending out to our servicemen?

Read on AOL news that one guy got a bill for $700.00. They say it is for damaged equipment. Can you believe it? Equipment got damaged while you were fighting a WAR! I wonder how that happened? They won't even tell him what equipment he is supposed to have damaged. So far they have sent out 1.5 million dollars in bills to our servicemen. And if they don't pay, they are going to turn them over to a credit agency. I can't express how I feel about it because I have to keep it clean on this website.
Thanks for risking your life for this country, please remit $700.00.

Posted by: RMHK | July 29, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Dear PutDownTheKoolaid

I would like to believe what you say but the Republicans are already working on the 2008 election. Kerry won the Presidency in 2004, and Gore won it in 2000. It is such a wide conspiracy I don't know if we can beat it. Read, Read as much as you can before the election.(everybody)

Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast Re: vote fraud

The assault on reason by Al Gore

A Tragic Legacy by Glenn Greenwald ( he is an attorney that specializes in the Constitution.

You will learn more about what is going on if you watch BBC television news.

Posted by: RMHK | July 29, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm willing to bet most of these posters have never had a conversation with their U.S. senator or representative.
What I wish these polls would ask is how many of the people polled actually know a politician. In my own surveys, this reveals a significant knowledge/opinion split. People who are active in politics and know a politician, feel very differently than others.

The people who are most cynical are those who are most disconnected. That is, they don't vote, they don't write letters, they don't make phone calls to politicians.

Therefore they form their opinions from what they read in newspapers and see on TV. Since the news is biased toward failures and exceptions the opinions formed from it are overwhelmingly negative and cynical.

A survey of people who have lobbied members of Congress would show a different result.

Posted by: GrassRootsGuy | July 28, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Gore made a bad show of the 2000 election, which he nevertheless won. That his margin wasn't greater owed a lot to Republican domination of certain state houses and to his own formidable lack of both charisma and vision, which left him open to a third party challenge. And who put him up there to run against Bush? Why, the Democratic national party. If you read all those newspapers you say, you should be aware the Democrats are celebrated for their ability to shoot themselves in the foot with their candidate choices. The candidate selection process is sick.

So, go blame the voters for getting suddenly more gullible at the national level, but I think that's not right. What you see here on this side of the pond is a great complaint about lack of choice in the Presidential elections, because the candidates we get lately offer a) no vision, and b) as little meaningful commitment about policy as possible. This is done to preserve maneuvering room for the ensuing process of selling out the electorate to the highest bidder.

And if you decide the voters can't make democracy work at the national level, just what is your next stop anyway? Giving up?

Posted by: fzdybel | July 27, 2007 8:12 PM | Report abuse

fzdybel, You are wrong. Each election is a local election and expresses the will of the local people. People are smarter and more knowledgeable when they elect their local representatives than in national elections. In presidential elections they are open to the slimiest snake-oil salesmen/women. (Read Hillary, Edwards here.)

There is a big difference between Obama and Ron Paul or Ralph Nader! I do not live or think inside the Beltway. I have lived in France for 20 years but am an American going back 200 years. I read three newspapers online a day, the Post, the NY Times and the LA Times and I have been appalled at the coverage of politics of all three during the Bush years. Liberal press, my eye!

That said, Jim Webb won in Virginia because Virginia--not NY or NC--wanted him as Senator. That was a big-time win for America.

Posted by: walden1 | July 27, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I think nobody expects politics to be pure. The question is: is it a force for social progress or not? Will the Republic be preserved or not? Depending on the answers to these questions, the best thing to do may be to throw a monkey-wrench into business as usual. I think I'd rather blame the two party system than the voters for where we have been recently. And you regard me as the more cynical of the two of us?

If the Democrats don't deliver impeachment soon, they will deserve whatever else that comes their way in 2008, third party efforts and all. Unsatisfactory performance is unsatisfactory performance. Failure to uphold an oath of office is failure to uphold an oath of office (I'm talking about you, Nancy).

For all the partisans such as yourself who just can't give up that wonderful Beltway/K Street groove, there is the strategy of voting the incumbents out of office in their own primaries, then voting for the party of choice later. As for myself, I will return to my perennial practice of voting exclusively for third party candidates, unless I see either Obama or Ron Paul on a ticket. So go right ahead, stick Hillary up there as the lesser of two evils and see what happens.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 27, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Over the past 80 years democrats have been the party of good government and have spent much of their time and effort while in office picking up the messes left by the repubublicans. Except for national defense and when it is providing for their own, the republicans are hostile to government. Inder Chaney/Bush the providing part was accomplished by Chaney in total secrecy and has been a big success for the rich and the big corporations, but government as it effects the rest of us has been marked by incompetency, run by buffoons and clowns, and is the biggest disaster in American history. The next president, who must be a democrat backed by a democratic congress, will have to clean up this latest and much worse mess. It is not just to blame democrats for the train wreck caused by the republicans.

Posted by: jdpurvis | July 27, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Cynicism is not a practical or intellectual answer to the problem, fzdybel. How different would the world be if many purist Democrats hadn't stayed home out of disgust in 1968, letting Nixon win with razor-thin margins? Much more to the common heart and memory, what would this country be like today, and our debates, if Ralph Nader, who ran saying, as you do, that there is no difference between the two major parties, had not been on the ticket in Florida and elsewhere?

Politics is not pure; it is always some sort of compromise. If Gore had won, there would never have been this shameful Bush/Cheney era/error! That's an enormous historical fact waiting to be digested by my fellow Americans.

Posted by: walden1 | July 27, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm totally disillusioned with our current government & Adminsitration. It seems they've turned their back on their constituencies and are working for themselves only. The tax payer isn't benefitting at all from their contributions. General voter apathy allows these politicians to subvert the system. Are my kids going to be any better off in 20 years? I doubt it - witht the debt they're assuming. Am I any better off? No. Higher taxes, higher costs for life's essentials. Who is better off? The very rich as the majority of Americans continue to be supporting thier gratuitous lifestyles. If the voter realizes their own power, a vast majority of our Congressional delegates will be ousted and with that threat, they should begin to listen a little closer and respond appropriately to what millions of Americans want and need.

Posted by: cahalatb | July 27, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Make your vote count - VOTE INDEPENDENT!! EVEN AS A PROTEST - OUR POINT CAN BEST BE MADE TO NOT VOTE FOR THE CARPETBAGGERS AND LIARS. NEITHER PARTY DESERVES OUR MONEY OR VOTES - OMG - THIS COUNTRY IS IN SUCH TROUBLE

Posted by: tomsawyer49 | July 27, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

By the time it's okay for the President of the United States to lie like a rug each day and every day, and keep the actualities secret under cover of national security and executive priviliege, it's pretty much up with our democratic system of government. How is anybody supposed to make heads or tails of the situation as a voter when they are surrounded by so many liars? Fix the lying thing and we will see if the electorate makes better choices.

I think all the catapulting of propaganda makes the democratic system take a little longer to settle its bits, but it still seems to come up with the correct answers in the end, i.e. end the war in Iraq now, and impeach Gonzales, Cheney and Bush.

I think lambasting the voters is particularly unfair when voter suppression has been rampant lately.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 27, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

How can anyone be surprised at the findings of this survey. The two-party system favored by the United States of Arrogance has been destroying this country for years. Power and greed gonna do us in.

Posted by: kentigereyes | July 27, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

We now know a few things about the American people with some certainty:
-10% of us - the percentage who refused to ever get sucked into supporting an obviously wrong-head war - can't be fooled any of the time.
-25 to 30% of us - the percentage who still support George Bush - can be fooled all of the time. (Or are simply fools.)
-The remaining 60-65% just blow with the prevailing wind.

You can't build a democracy out of these numbers.

Pogo is still right: we have met the enemy and he is us.

Posted by: dhilleub | July 27, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Leave Patriot1 alone, his rant is a little strange around the edges, but he has the essential fact straight: the United States of America has become a plutocracy. Our two wonderful parties between them always make sure that the choices available on election day are completely safe for plutocrats. And this is all done by highly educated folks, such as yourself, walden1.

There are a lot of economically disadvantaged folks in this country (legally) who are not quite down with this notion that there are some jobs Americans just won't take. What they see is that there are some jobs Americans won't pay a living wage for. These people say it's time to stop the party.

Lincoln said it: you can't fool all the people all the time. And that was in his day, when educated men were even lighter on the ground than presently. So I think your diagnosis blaming the electorate is a bit off. In fact I think all those folks who couldn't see it the same way you do on immigration are probably smarter than you are, in any function sense, walden1. They're at least looking out for their own survival.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 27, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

What I find "startling" is that anybody at all is startled by the findings of this latest poll: "A new survey offers a warning to all politicians that the American people have entered this campaign with a wholly cynical view of the political process." How can anybody who has observed our political system at all--either from a distance or up close--not regard it cynically? Has anyone at any level of government--with a few notable exceptions--given us any reason in the last six years to NOT view the process with utter disdain? I don't really claim any party affiliation--I'm disgusted by all of these hacks. Politics has always been an image-oriented game, but in the past few years especially, the posturing has become grossly excessive. Who gives a flying...um, hike...how much a guy's haircut costs? Of course, since Edwards' "message" is meant to have a populist appeal, it's the sort of item the Maureen Dowds of the world love to get a hold of. As for the whole populist posture, it failed both Gore and Kerry, so why does anybody expect it to fly now? Which reminds me: Kill all the consultants! The admen, the campaign managers, media gurus--they're like professional sports coaches. Apparently the pool of available names is so small that it doesn't matter that their last team went 2-14 or whatever. Come next season, they'll have a job somewhere else. Can you imagine if Gore had hit the trail in 2000 with the kind of clarity and, frankly, balls he's displayed more recently?

Posted by: cmhagan | July 27, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I read and thoroughly agree with J Kerns from
Deerfield Township, Ohio. We cannot offer the polls opinions as negative (and accurate)as we are reading today, without blaming the electorate that blindly bestows power on our distrusted politicians. If we are so helpless that we cannot avoid the choices we make, then it is time for an organized and correctly focused McVeigh campaign.

Posted by: ButchDillon | July 27, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The rant by Patriot 1 proves how pumped-up, loud-mouth, talk-radio inspired partisanship is what's preventing politicians getting things done. The immigration bill was sponsored by Bush and McCain, not just Kennedy. It was a sensible bill. All you RightWing crazies who have been encouraged to come out of the cracks in the walls by Bush/Rove policies and fascists like Rush Limbaugh are America's Number 1 problem. Number 2 problem is the American voting public, not Congress. You can't have democracy without well-informed citizens. Patriot 1 you are a perfect example of a dwarf head.

Posted by: walden1 | July 27, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are mostly to blame. I have never seen this much anti-americanism... From Dean, to Pelosi to Sheehan, KOS, Clinton... need I go on?

Posted by: griffisu | July 27, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course we distrust them all, once they arrive in D.C. it's like the exorcist, they transform into money magnets and double speakers!Worst of all they know it and don't' give a damn.

Posted by: sfilutze | July 27, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course we distrust them all, once they arrive in D.C. it's like the exorcist, they transform into money magnets and double speakers!Worst of all they know it and don't' give a damn.

Posted by: sfilutze | July 27, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course we distrust them all, once they arrive in D.C. it's like the exorcist, they transform into money magnets and double speakers!Worst of all they know it and don't' give a damn.

Posted by: sfilutze | July 27, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

An additional problem exists with our system:
At work if you hire someone, & they fail to perform, you can warn them that day. You can dock their pay two days later. You can escalate your admonishments as quickly as necessary and fire them within a week in extreme cases. However, once we elect someone, we can't fire them for years and have no way to affect their pay nor otherwise reward or punish then until their current term expires. Regardless of what happens when elections do roll around again, they already have acquired lifetime medical coverage, a pension, and various unending government benefits - not to mention opportunities in lobbying, speaking, & consulting. On the other hand, the various lobbying organizations do have the ways and means to reward and punish daily. Why should we expect to be heeded?

Posted by: RankinJohnson | July 27, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Right. Fred Thompson will save us from the clowns in government. You've got to be kidding. If Fred gets elected, he will be reporting to work for the very same clowns that are running the current show.

And as for the bozos who think Congress' low rating with the public is because it is spending too much time on bashing the administration, you are only partly right. The majority of Americans want the Congress to stop bashing alright, and start impeaching.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 27, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The world's oldest government has fallen - and it can't get up.

Posted by: moiety | July 27, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

It is hardly surprising. The people, disenchanted with the Republicans gave control of Congress to the Democrats, hoping that as in the past some progress would be made on issues of mutual concern when power is split in Washington. Instead, the Democrats go all out expending as much political capital as possible on discrediting the Bush administration (which seems almost redundant as an excersize) - instead of showing that they can work responsibly with the administration to do the people's business. By the time the election roles around, this will put them back down on an even footing with the Republicans.

Posted by: hdick | July 27, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

This is an UNDERSTATMENT ! HilleryS in bed with the big drug corperations , Starving the Elderly for her own benifite , Bush is no better ? The Morel Majority ? Is Morely Bankrupt , Oh Gee ! Conservative ,now means crook !
I agree with Fred Thomson !ENOUGHT IS ENOUGHT "WE THE PEOPLE" HAVE HAD IT WITH THOSE CLOWNS.

Posted by: mgilfoy | July 27, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"By 2-1, those surveyed said they want someone working to get things done?"

Getting things done? The current Kennedy-like Democrats are trying to get many things done... for 20 million illegal aliens all on the taxpoayers' back. They authored the amnesty portion of the Grand Bargain in June and this week another amnesty attempt under the Ag Bill..which may pass.

Plus, the Dems are big on allowing extended families to migrate when the illegals are amenstied - which includes MS13 gang members. They also want to increase the immnigration quotas in the US to make Council LaRaza happy - the Zero over-population control policy. And then, while pushing for an overpopulated US, they have the audacity to say humans are responsible for global warming and they are the party to stop glabal warming - by importing millions of new immigrants, illegal and legal??

The Dems say they are tough on security and crime yet offer no solution for controlling the Mexican border - the biggest drug entry to the US than any other doorway in the world. Tough on security BUT law officers can't ask you if you are legally here and townships can't make their own laws to save their few tax dollars??

Of course, we have the Reps pushing for 400,000 new Z Visas for Indian workers so Bill Gates can avoid paying salaries to American workers, Reps who refuse to allow a dying cancer victim the right to smoke a bowl and refuse to push the bounds of medical research and scientific inquiry through the use of discarded stem cells.

On both sides of the aisle from top to local, those with money own a larger piece of the politcial body than constituents. Developers own county supervisors thus over development is a fate accomplice. Wall Street owns Hillary as the Dem Senator made evident last week in the debate. Exxon owns Bush so let's drill some more oil well sin the US so we can sell gas to China.

Policticans do get things done ..for those who own them, not those who vote for them.

Iraq? Hell, they all lied - "No Nation Building", Bush said. And, then Bill's quote - I did not have sex with that woman". And Hillary - "I voted for Iraq because". The politicians are all acountable except in their eyes.

Getting things done? We went to the moon. We still have the best educational institutions on the planet and, contrary to the idiot loiberal movie maker, we have better medical resources than Cuba and yes, like everyone else, you have to work to access them.

Nothing is free except the promise of opportunity in America if you obey the laws and enter the country legally. Break the laws and you are not entititled to anything much less that promise of the American dream. No one is entitled to preferential treatment except in the yes of the policticans. You cannot steal and usurp regardless of the corrupt politicians pleading ignorance of the rule of law on your behalf.

Getting things done depoends on who they're getting it done for. Certainly not the average American.

Posted by: Patriot1 | July 27, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I think the real blame for our country's problems lies with the voters. We blame politicians but we are the ones who continually elect members to congress based mostly on the candidate's party affiliation rather than their ability to get things done. We put party loyalty ahead of our country's well being and the result is the divided country we "enjoy" today. With little chance of creating a 3rd party to ride to the rescue anytime soon, we should work within the existing political system but with one catch: forget party loyalty and VOTE ANTI-INCUMBENT. Can anyone think of a better way of sending a clear and powerful message to Washington that the country is tired of the partisanship, division, and lack of leadership?? With one pull of the level in the voting booth, we could clear the House and a good part of the Senate in 2008. If members of congress will not vote for term limits, we should. We won't ever see a change in our political system or our country if we continue to elect the same representatives over and over again. The power to change things lies in our hands. It must start at home with each of us.

Posted by: robert.cortez | July 27, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

it's the electorate's fault for being too lazy to think critically about the leaders they're choosing. we're seeing the results of a poor education system and massive media failures. it's only going to get worse.

Posted by: stremolo | July 27, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

People in the poll are obviously upset with politicians. But one may ask, who elects them? They do not fly in from another planet. Bush and the Republican Party have staked out their positions with clarity: support for staying the course in Iraq, tolerance for gross inequities in income, a reduction in the size of the federal government, meaning more deregulation and an emphasis upon voluntarism as opposed to community action to deal with problems. Democrats in Congress for the most part oppose our policy in Iraq and would temper the more dislocative consequences of an unchecked capitalism. They would interpret the phrase "we the people" to have more of a community flavor than do the Republicans who seem to define the phrase--as a nation of autonomous individuals--islands unto themselves--with every person out for themselves---freedom being understood primarily in freedom to make a buck without checks or concern for consequences.
These views are pretty well known. Also No one seems to point to the structure of our system(forged by people now dead for over 2 centuries) which gives extra advantages to people who live in the less populated states or to Senate rules which give a minority tremendous power to stop a majority. Both of these structural designs run counter to the idea of democracy. No one points to a press where corporate chieftains(concerned with the bottom line not the dissemination of info people need to make informed decisions) now own and run the three tradtional major tv networks--television and talk radio being the main source of information for the American people. The Fox network is nothing more than an appendage of the White House and the Republican Party. Talk radio is heavily tilted in favor of right wing view points. Most local tv and radio stations are owned and managed by Republicans. All of this gives the lie to the existence of a liberal media, yet most people believe it exists.
As long as people will vote for someone because he is somebody one might feel comfortable drinking a beer with;as long as most Americans continue to display little interest in the rest of the world unless all of a sudden we get caught up in a crisis and then automatically, the U.S. is perceived as always being right; as long as our information media feel compelled to always balance factual information with opinion--no matter how off the wall--- you are going to have an electorate that is more than likely to be making some weird choices when it comes to its elected reps. In sum, when you blame the pols in our "democracy" you also have to focus the spotlight on the folks who elected them and keep electing them. An ill-informed, uncaring public when it comes to the pursuit of accurate information about the world they live in and the people who occupy public office, does not make for a sustainable republic.

J Kerns
Deerfield Township, Ohio 45140

Posted by: kkerns | July 27, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

People in the poll are obviously upset with politicians. But one may ask, who elects them? They do not fly in from another planet. Bush and the Republican Party have staked out their positions with clarity: support for staying the course in Iraq, tolerance for gross inequities in income, a reduction in the size of the federal government, meaning more deregulation and an emphasis upon voluntarism as opposed to community action to deal with problems. Democrats in Congress for the most part oppose our policy in Iraq and would temper the more dislocative consequences of an unchecked capitalism. They would interpret the phrase "we the people" to have more of a community flavor than do the Republicans who seem to define the phrase--as a nation of autonomous individuals--islands unto themselves--with every person out for themselves---freedom being understood primarily in freedom to make a buck without checks or concern for consequences.
These views are pretty well known. Also No one seems to point to the structure of our system(forged by people now dead for over 2 centuries) which gives extra advantages to people who live in the less populated states or to Senate rules which give a minority tremendous power to stop a majority. Both of these structural designs run counter to the idea of democracy. No one points to a press where corporate chieftains(concerned with the bottom line not the dissemination of info people need to make informed decisions) now own and run the three tradtional major tv networks--television and talk radio being the main source of information for the American people. The Fox network is nothing more than an appendage of the White House and the Republican Party. Talk radio is heavily tilted in favor of right wing view points. Most local tv and radio stations are owned and managed by Republicans. All of this gives the lie to the existence of a liberal media, yet most people believe it exists.
As long as people will vote for someone because he is somebody one might feel comfortable drinking a beer with;as long as most Americans continue to display little interest in the rest of the world unless all of a sudden we get caught up in a crisis and then automatically, the U.S. is perceived as always being right; as long as our information media feel compelled to always balance factual information with opinion--no matter how off the wall--- you are going to have an electorate that is more than likely to be making some weird choices when it comes to its elected reps. In sum, when you blame the pols in our "democracy" you also have to focus the spotlight on the folks who elected them and keep electing them. An ill-informed, uncaring public when it comes to the pursuit of accurate information about the world they live in and the people who occupy public office, does not make for a sustainable republic.

J Kerns
Deerfield Township, Ohio 45140

Posted by: kkerns | July 27, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

The real question that needs to asked is where the loyality of the candidates are? Is it with corporate america, the "party" (democratic or republican, a specific interest group (evan. christ., gun lobby, etc., illegal immigrants or is it the citizens of this country. With 535 elected officials voting in the senate and house of representives, I find it hard to fathom that all the republican and/or democratic always vote party lines. We elect individuals to government, not parties. How many families can sit down at dinner and agree nite after nite at the dinner table on any given subject.
The worst of the party first loyality has shown its face in the last 6 years. The Republican leadership has refused to do over site on the Bush Administration. The proper thing for both parties is to correct something when it is wrong. One party defends the wrong to the end and the other drops everything to point out the blame. Both parties need to stop protecting the incompetance and illegalities in their parties! Wrong is wrong!

Posted by: insipid4 | July 27, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Independent" makes an excellent point that this column unfairly characterizes Democrats' congressional weight, maligning them for failures that may be attributable to their lacking a veto-proof majority in the face of a singularly stubborn Republican president. Where does the MSM poll on trustworthiness?

Posted by: jhbyer | July 27, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I support two national-level politicians: Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Ron Paul. The rest of them in toto should be executed and their heads displayed on pikes above the doors to the US Capitol building!

Posted by: H5N1 | July 27, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I have believed for several years now, that our system of government is in the early stages of self destruction. The Democratic Republic of The United States of America has become the best argument for the Monarchic system that has been presented for generations.

If the American people don't get ahold of this situation, I am afraid that we are going to lose our freedom along with our jobs. We need REAL reform in the process of campaigning for office and we need to clean the lobbyists out of government. ALL GOVERNMENT, not just Washington. Politicians spend more time on collecting money and getting re-elected than they do on the jobs we pay them to do.

Posted by: ctmont | July 27, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

The dissatisfaction with Democrats stems from the fact that we are still in Iraq (among other things), regardless of the wishes of most voters that we be out, or on our way out. Voters are not dissatisfied with Democrats for being Democrats - it's for not going far enough toward reversing the President's policies, not for going too far.

In a recent poll, 48% of respondents want Congress to start impeachment procedures - I don't think the MSM realize just how badly the electorate has snapped - voters of BOTH parties just want to wake up tomorrow and find Bush gone. They are not sure how it would all work, and they don't want to know - they just want it over with. When they find out about this tricky "high crimes and misdemeanors" clause, they go, "What? We have to find that he's broken the law? We don't want to try him and find him guilty - we just want him gone."

No, this does not reflect a sophisticated understanding of how impeachment works - but it means nothing but bad, bad, bad for the GOP from now on.

Posted by: achilli | July 27, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Post a comment column should be right after the article not at the tail end of comments!

Posted by: ajain31 | July 27, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

People across the political spectrum have come to realize that the two party system -- both dominated by their most extreme elements -- is destroying our nation. Caught between bizarre ideological arguments and corporate/special interest whoring, the people's work remains untouched. Real wages have been flat for over twenty years, while corporate profits soar into the stratosphere and worthless executives are rewarded with hundred-million-dollar payouts to leave the company they've just wrecked. Our health is looked after by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries who profit when they don't deliver needed care and affordable products. Our industries migrate off-shore, and we're told to work two jobs and mortgage our houses to pay for a lifestyle of cheap consumer goods. Our energy policy is orchestrated in total secrecy by a paranoid megalomaniac and his oil industry buddies. We've poured the lives of 3500 of America's best, and half-a-trillion dollars, into the sands of Iraq. Can you imagine the livid outrage that would have flowed from the Legislative and Executive branches if, in 2003, programs costing half-a-trillion dollars were proposed for border security, health care, education, Social Security, inspection of imported goods, alternative energy, or any of a dozen needs that the people of this nation are genuinely concerned about? So why are the authors of this study so amazed at their findings? Do they beleive that the American Dream is so dead that we'll accept anything from our leaders?

Posted by: davidglenday | July 27, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

People vote for partisan representatives to "protect them from the other side", and that is super scary. The reason Bush has trouble finding support for his policies is not just because they are unpopular. It is because the administration declares all out war on anyone who disagrees with them. When you listen to Dick Cheney he says Al-Queda is not only an Islamic terrorist group, it is everyone who disagrees with his policies as well. And he says it like he means it, in fact I think he does.

So the guy who just went on TV and called me a terrorist wants me to support his policies? I dont think so!, in fact it doesnt really matter what the policies actually are at that point. I mean this guy just called me a terrorist on TV!

And yes I think the both sides of the aisle are guilty of this.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | July 27, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem with many politicians is that they never had a close link with any of their constituents. Look at the "diversity" of politicians. They're either lawyers or doctors, most from families with large sums of money who didn't have to pay for their college educations out of pocket. That DOES NOT represent a majority of U.S. citizens and does not allow our "representatives" to actually connect with the public because they've never had to experience what the average American has to deal with. I'm not saying all of them are in this situation but a huge majority of them have never been "typical Americans representive of the majority".

How are these people any different than feudal aristocrats? No wonder they don't represent their constituents' concerns; they have no idea what they truly are and have no need to address them. With a two party system, our choices are limited to the candidate who doesn't represent our ideas but sounds like a nice guy or the candidate who doesn't agree with the public opinion but sounds honest. Our federalist republic is a joke ruled by fools.

Posted by: hegemon4ever | July 27, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised that he results are so positive. I firmly believe every politician in Washington should have to give up their GOLD plan medical insurance that we pay for and use the same medical facilities and care our servicemen get.
They should also try to work a 40+ hour week and not take the month of August off for vacation. Like many working Americans. They seem to have forgotten where they came from and who they represent.
VOTE THE INCUMBENTS OUT.

Posted by: JustMyOpinion | July 27, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The current story on the "clash" between Obama and Clinton is focused too much on making this a cat and dog fight and discrediting their ability to enter into debate. Their comments are right on target by creating a debate we need to have: how to relate to nations like Iran and North Korea whose leaders feed their people on anti-Americanism to keep them off their own backs. Indeed the Bush administration has made matters worse as it has failed to engage these nations effectively by refusing to communicate early on in its tenure. Clinton and Obama raise good points about the necessity of engaging these volatile nations and help us think about different ways to do that effectively. We fail to engage the real issue when all we talk about is a "feud" between two very substantial candidates. We should be grateful that they are raising the issue.

Posted by: cjkiblinger | July 27, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The other finding of note in the Battleground Poll was growing disenchantment with Democrats in Congress. Tringali called it "an awfully short honeymoon" for a party that just took over the House and Senate in January. Lake noted, "Voters voted for change and still haven't gotten that."

A Democrat majority? (51-49) I think not. With Sen. Johnson (D-SD) recovering from surgery and Lieberman voting Rep. on Irag, it would seem the Reps. still hold the majority at 50-49.
Not that Congress will do anything of import for the common citizen anyway.

Posted by: Independant | July 27, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think having each candidate work a couple of weeks at a McDonald's might be just the thing to teach them a bit of perspective and humility. You know that Food Stamp challenge that a few House members undertook recently? I think that would be good too. Really, I think any politician should have to experience first-hand what their policies really do. I'm not saying that politicians are spawned on the basement floor of the Pentagon or the IRS (Though sometimes I wonder), but one really wonders at what point they lose touch with their constituencies.

Posted by: relayer40 | July 27, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats are far from perfect, but the lion's share of the blame lies
with Republicans, who have deliberately tried to divide the country so that
they can seize power with support of only a minority of the people.
I firmly believe that the Republicans are going to take a beating of historic
proportions in 2008. Most people realize this, except for Washington
politicians and the corrupt corporate media that enable them (that includes
you, Washington Post).

Posted by: PutDownTheKoolaid | July 27, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Now why would the public think that both Democrats & Republicans are untrustworthy? Could it be because time and again both parties have shown just how untrustworthy they are?
Despite what the media would like to have happen, the public has taken this into their own hands. Check out what's really happening on the web. Meet-up groups all over the nation are coming together to reclaim their government. Right now Ron Paul is the hottest topic on the net.
After the next election both Democrats & Republicans could find themselves in a minority position when the new congress is sworn in.
For the first time in decades "we the people" will have a representational government that will uphold their oath the defend our constitution and our nation.
Join the Ron Paul Revolution in 2008.

Posted by: eco-pharm | July 27, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

These findings are difficult to decipher. It's a common refrain that voters want politicians to get things done and not play partisan politics with critical issues of the day. I'm not sure that tells us anything. What is more striking is that voters who perceive their own Congressional representatives as partisan are still voting for them. People's survey sentiments are softer measurements than their actual votes. What's really happening is that politicians are closer than ever to mirroring the factionalism among the electorate. Whatever disconnect may have once existed between the pragmatic tendencies of the electorate and the partisan tendencies of their politicians is growing smaller and smaller. At some point, the electorate has to be held accountable for putting well known partisan hacks in Congress. Despite the lip service given to cooperation and bipartisanship, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the electorate wants it this way, and that their own partisanship is being accurately reflected in the cannibalism of national politics.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | July 27, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Neither Republicans or Democrats are trustworthy, both look right at the cameras and lie as soon as their mouths start moving. Tim Kaine said he would uphold the death penalty, LIE. Tim Kaine said he would not raise taxes, LIE. Webster's Dictionary defines "Todays Politician," as people without credibility, integrity, or ability to tell the truth. The American public should be pessimistic, none of the individuals running for President should be allowed to work at McDonald's let alone be President, the entire group is nothing more than a bunch of used car salemen willing to say anything to anybody.

Posted by: Ruth3 | July 27, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

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