I heard Senator Mark Begich of Alaska on NPR one evening this week saying, “The Republicans are being held hostage by a small group in their party for political advantage and the American people hate it.” This, naturally raised the question, if the latter is true, where is the political advantage for Republicans or even for Tea Party politicians in the government shutdown? How can there be political advantage in what the American people hate?

So does America want Obamacare? In a piece by AEI’s Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg, they say that according to polling, no. ”In every poll conducted by eight major national pollsters this year, opposition to the Affordable Care Act outweighs support.”  However, they offer several howevers.  People do not seem confident about dismantling or defunding the ACA, or did not at the point this piece was written, which was earlier last week.  Subsequent stories about the many problems with the implementation of the health exchanges could change that.

I saw another poll, one about approval of the United States Congress:

Approve - 13%

Disapprove - 75%

Do we suppose that in next election, the people will throw the bums out? The speculation generally seems to be that the Tea Party guys are done.  Maybe that’s true and of course, we’ll see. However, wasn’t shaking up “Washington” what the Tea Party guys were elected to do? Well, they are doing it. Could there be more grace, finesse, and a little less whoo-ha? Sure, but what does anyone expect from those tyros, who are, on the capitol’s terms, just a bunch of rubes? “Mr. Cruz Goes to Washington” has not proved to have quite the charm of the celebration of naiveté that is the Capra classic movie about a rube in the Senate.  And perhaps this shutdown is not quite the way that even the Republican reformers would have preferred, but this is the way to “shake things up” that turned up. I keep hearing people say, “They are all bums; I don’t care which party.”

I wondered if the congressional approval numbers were much different before the last election. We can  recall articles like this one from prior to the 2012 election .  This indicates an uptick, though not much more than a tick, in the approval numbers.  What about this: I think we all hate the other guy’s congressman and wonder why he is elected. We elect or re-elect our own favorite and everyone else hates him, as in does not approve. Maybe after a few months we hate him, too. Then we have our little district-wide revolutions and are still dissatisfied.  The folks we elect lack statesmanship or something. This must happen in every election. I suppose it might go back to the problem of the deep divisions in our nation that others have discussed. There is little ground for compromise on many issues facing the nation. Our factions hate compromise.  “They are all bums!” is what we say when they compromise and when they do not compromise.

Compromise is always part of the American deal, because we have a lot of different Americans in the republic and they want different things from government. We say we hate our current politics or that the current mess is because of politics.  “They are just playing politics!” is beginning to sound absurd.  Which came first, the game or the people? Speaking of politics in that way sounds like we are complaining of some act that the people elected or appointed in government could avoid engaging in.  The congressional representatives we disapprove of cannot get away from the people, partly because they are the people, which is true beyond the question of elections.

So, “[t]he folks we elect lack statesmanship or something” is because they are disappointingly and disagreeably like us.  There is fatalism in that and I think it is funny.   This amounts to an American self-loathing and if we were still a Christian nation, we would have to forgive one another and just get on with things.  Of course, when we were or thought we were a Christian nation, we could still be at each others’ throats.   That’s cause to hope we will muddle through the current mess, isn’t it?

Articles by Kate Pitrone

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