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Voters to Congress: Can’t someone else do it?

at 03:26 PM ET, 07/20/2011


“The Simpsons” may tell us everything we need to know about the 2012 election. (AP Photo/Fox Broacasting Co.)
Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll say they plan to “look around” to vote for someone other than their current Member of Congress in 2012, a symbol of the considerable unrest in the electorate and a warning sign to incumbents of both parties heading into next November.

Sixty three percent of registered voters said they would look around for someone other than their current incumbent, the highest that number has ever been in Post/ABC polling dating back to 1989(!). Just 32 percent said they planned to vote to re-elect their incumbent.

Even more concerning for House members is that independents, a swing voting bloc who went for Democrats by 18 points in 2006 and Republicans by 19 points in 2010, are very much in a looking-around mood; 67 percent said they are in search of someone other than their current incumbent to vote for in 2012.

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And, 80 percent of all Americans said they were either dissatisfied or angry about the way Washington works, the highest that number has been in Post/ABC polling since the early 1990s.

What those numbers most remind us — pop-culture obsessives that we are — of is an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer runs for sanitation commissioner on the slogan: “Can’t someone else do it?”

In essence, Homer promises he will solve everyone’s trash problems — up to and including shoving down garbage in peoples’ cans with his own two hands. (Wouldn’t that be great?)

Homer’s wild promises win him the job but he is unable to deliver on any of his major pledges and is summarily run out of office (and publicly flogged).

The 2010 election in which Republicans re-took the House was in many ways a “can’t someone else do it” election.

Polls repeatedly showed that voters didn’t particularly care for Democrats or Republicans but they were sick of what total Democratic control in Washington meant for their lives and wanted to give someone else a try — even if they didn’t entirely believe in what that someone else was selling.

It’s not all that surprising then that there is widespread discontent about the performance of House members after six months of the 112th Congress.

What is interesting in the Post/ABC numbers, however, is how the desire to find another option for Congress in 2012 is shared by people of every ideological leaning. Sixty-six percent of moderates said they will “look around” but so did 63 percent of conservatives and 56 percent of liberals.

And, while independents were the most likely to say they wanted to look around in 2012, 66 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats said the same.

That data is particularly interesting given the results of the last three House elections in which large numbers of seats changed hands each time — the first time in modern political history that we have seen three consecutive national wave elections.

Viewed cumulatively, the election and poll results suggest that the House majority simply may not be able to held for any extended period of time in the current electoral climate.

Up every two years, House members are far more prone to fall victim to the prevailing political winds than a Senator, governor or president. And, many of those who benefited from the “can’t someone else do it” mentality in 2010 could be on the losing end of that exact same mind set in November 2012.

While the discontent toward Congress isn’t directed at either party , it is likely — if it keeps up — to more negatively impact Republicans simply because they are the majority party in the House.

It’s worth noting that saying you are willing to look around for someone other than the incumbent and actually voting for a flesh and blood person against the sitting Member of Congress are two very different things. It’s easy to laud a generic candidate and harder to fall in love with the warts-and-all options that each party will field next year.

Still, these latest numbers from the Post/ABC survey have to strike fear into the collective hearts of anyone with “Rep.” before their name as they suggest 2012 could be (yet) another “can’t someone else do it” election.


 
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