By MARC McDONALD
The MSM would have us believe that Democrats in Congress have even lower approval ratings than George W. Bush's dismal poll numbers. But while in fact the Democrats' poll numbers are indeed low, they are higher than Bush's poll numbers.
Typical of the MSM coverage has been USA Today, which recently quoted a Gallup Poll spokesman saying that the Democratic-led Congress has had a very brief honeymoon and stands lower in Americans' eyes than President Bush.
There's only one problem with this MSM spin: not all members of Congress are Democrats. Break down the approval rating of members of Congress by party and the Dems have an approval rating of 37 percent, which (while low) is higher than Bush's approval rating. By contrast, GOP members of Congress have a truly dismal approval rating of a mere 29 percent.
I haven't seen this important distinction made in the MSM's coverage of Congress's approval ratings. In fact, every story seems to emphasize that "the Democratic-led Congress" has approval ratings in the toilet.
The wingnuts, of course, have had a field day with this "story," spinning it as bad news only for the Democrats. But if you stop and think about it, the GOP really has little reason to celebrate.
First of all, as Gallup has pointed out, Congress' approval ratings have been consistently low for decades---with only two exceptions: the Watergate era and in 1986 (when Congress' approval rating was at 40 percent). Indeed, the mainstream media has been irresponsible in its lack of context for failing to mention this fact in reporting on Congress' recent low approval numbers.
The fact is, pollsters have long noted that the American public has a dim view of Congress as a whole (but they often have a much higher opinion of their own local lawmakers).
It's important to remember the reason that Congress has a low approval rating these days.
Is it because the public disapproves of the lawmakers' efforts in the Congress to raise minimum wage and other Democratic legislative initiatives?
Nope, that's not the reason. In fact, polls have consistently shown that the public supports raising the minimum wage.
In fact, as Michael Moore pointed out in his book, Dude, Where's My Country? the majority of the American public agrees with the Democrats on most of the top domestic issues of our time. These range from keeping abortion legal to promoting civil rights to protecting the environment to stronger controls on firearms. Indeed, polls consistently show that a majority of the American public is further to the left than most Democratic politicians on many issues, such as health care. For example, 80 percent of Americans believe that health insurance should be provided equally to everyone in the nation.
The bottom line is that, if the Republicans take a good, hard look at the reason why Americans are fed up with this Congress, it's actually bad news for the GOP, not the Democrats.
The reality is, Americans are sick and tired of the war in Iraq--and they're fed up with the stumbling efforts in Congress to bring an end to this fiasco.
And try as they may to distance themselves from George W. Bush, the Republicans are going to have a difficult time distancing themselves from the Iraq War. After all, the overwhelming majority of the remaining Iraq War supporters in this country are Republicans.
The bottom line is that Congress' current low approval ratings has nothing to do with the public turning away from the sort of progressive policies that Democrats favor. And it has everything to do with the extreme unpopularity of a war that will always be associated with GOP politicians, whether they like it or not.