Congress had the “Worst Year in Washington”

at 04:41 PM ET, 12/16/2011

In a year filled with bad news, it wasn’t easy to make our pick for who or what had the absolute worst 2011 in Washington.

We weighed giving it to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) whose Twitter sex scandal won him a record four “Worst Week” awards. We took into account the more than 71,000 votes that you all cast — with “the long term unemployed” coming out on top. (Weiner was second in the voting.)

A landscaping flag sits on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. Photographer: Rich Clement/Bloomberg
But in the end, we decided to go with Congress. (Make sure to track all of our picks — good, bad and best years — on the official “Worst Year” page.)

Here’s an excerpt from our much longer riff on why Congress was so very deserving of the “honor”:

Saying that Congress is unpopular is kind of like saying that water is wet or that big-time college football is corrupt. It’s so obvious as to be assumed. And yet, in 2011 Congress managed to underperform even the low regard in which the American people hold it.
It wasn’t just that lawmakers didn’t do much in 2011. It was that they didn’t do much in a year in which the economy continued to struggle, the nation’s collective anxiety soared and, for the first time in modern memory, our fiscal foundations seemed genuinely shaky.
The mismatch between the bigness of the country’s problems and the smallness of Congress drove the institution’s approval ratings down to used-car-dealer (or even journalist) levels.
Read what others are saying