You can’t vote everyone in Congress out. So, what can you do?

October 23, 2013

What if there were a way to vote out EVERY member of Congress -- all at once?


In this Oct. 7, 2013, photo, the U.S. Capitol is reflected during rain in Washington. Americans are finding little they like about President Obama or either political party, according to a new poll that suggests the possibility of a "throw the bums out" mentality in next year's midterm elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

That's the hypothetical question that two polls have posed of late -- to fascinating results. Sixty percent of those polled in the NBC-Wall Street Journal survey said they would replace every member of Congress, including their own, in the next election if they could. Just 4 percent in a USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll said they thought Congress would be changed for the worse if every member were voted out.

Image courtesy of USA Today
Image courtesy of USA Today

 

That, of course, can't and won't happen. (Would be fascinating if it could, though, wouldn't it?) So, given that the people don't have the "throw the bums out" lever in the ballot box, what does all of the desire to get rid of everyone in Congress mean in real electoral terms? Well, we put that question to a quartet -- two Democrats, two Republicans -- of the smartest pollsters we know. Their answers are below.  Which one do you think is right?

Glen Bolger, partner at Public Opinion Strategies

"First, don’t be surprised if there are more retirements to come. Congress is such a toxic environment that between the potential for primaries, the inability to get things done, and the voter anger, it’s about as much fun as being special teams coach of the Redskins right now.  Secondly, if a candidate files against an incumbent in a primary, that incumbent needs to be on their toes regardless of party. Incumbents are presumed guilty and need to prove that they don’t have the blood of a dysfunctional Washington on their hands. At least for now, there is no coasting in 2014."

Fred Yang, partner at Garin-Hart-Yang Research

"These numbers aren't surprising; it's no secret that Congress as an institution sinks lower each year, and now 'members' are catching up to the institution.  However, these results get at the heart of why Congress is held in low esteem -- the public clearly wants change, but given redistricting, the number of competitive districts has shrunk. So we are in a vicious cycle -- voters want change (i.e. Congress to work together), but the political reality makes that less possible, so Congress sinks lower."

Kristen Soltis Anderson, vice president of Winston Group

"Republicans should have the wind at their backs in 2014 and the serious, historic frustration of the electorate calls that into question and makes things volatile. However, a year is a long way away, and Republicans have that year to change the conversation."

Jef Pollock, partner Global Strategy Group

"1. We’ve been talking about congressional approval/disapproval for a long time and it’s been at a nadir forever.  But this may be another metric that demonstrates the intensity level of the distaste for Congress in ways that we haven’t looked at before.

2. Most campaigns (other than wave elections) are about individuals. We know that candidates can sometimes rise above the national environment. But this data suggests that it will be easier for Democratic challengers to tie Congress around the necks of the incumbents, making the individual race a bit harder for each and every GOP House member."

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Juliet Eilperin | October 23, 2013