Congress has never been very popular, but its public image is currently at a historic low. Recent approval ratings for the first branch of government range from only 9 to 13 percent, depending on whom you ask, and frustration is coming from both sides of the political aisle. Fifty-five percent of Americans found both parties equally culpable for the failed supercommittee, and yet members continue to blame each other’s party as the biggest problem. As a body, Congress is more polarized than ever. Last year, the most conservative Democrat produced an overall voting record slightly to the left of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate. And the overlap between the parties in the House in 2010 was less than in any previous index.
Can we fix Congress, and if so, how? To try to answer this question, Need to Know’s Jeff Greenfield sits down in Washington, D.C. with Norman Ornstein, author and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; Mickey Edwards, the former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma; and Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee.
- George Packer and Tom Udall on the Senate’s ‘empty chamber’
- Walter Kirn on creating a virtual Congress
- Kurt Andersen on getting Republicans and Democrats to work together