AMERICANS are sending a clear message that they are dissatisfied with the performance of Congress. A series of recent problems, including the Keating Five, the Thomas confirmation hearings, the pay raise, and the House bank scandal, not to mention the usual partisan bickering, has led three-quarters to disapprove of the job Congress is doing. A majority think that half or more of House and Senate members are financially corrupt, and nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that the check-kiting allegat ions represent business as usual in Congress. The current situation has aggravated the tendency of people to believe that those we elect to Congress quickly lose touch with the people, and Americans are impatient with congressional privilege.
In the past, large turnovers of seats and swings in party representation in Congress were common. Between 1888 and 1930, for instance, party control changed five times, and on five occasions one or the other party lost 57 to 113 seats. Lately, however, public anger at Congress has failed to produce much change, either in the number of incumbents reelected or in the partisan make-up of the institution.
Even at this low ebb in regard for Congress as an institution, we continue to approve of our own representatives and consider them deserving of reelection. One of the advantages of incumbency is seen in the plurality who think the ability to do things that help people in the district is more important than agreeing with the representative's positions on national issues. Moreover, the public believes that divided partisan control of Congress and the presidency is best. Americans seem unwilling to take the
steps voters once took to express their anger at Congress.