Program Success August 2014 | Page 3

It ’ s no news that Congress is unpopular . In fact , at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating . So here ’ s the interesting thing : nearly three-quarters of Americans want to throw out most members of Congress , including their own representative , yet the vast majority of incumbents will be returning to Capitol Hill in January . In other words , Americans scorn Congress but keep re-electing its members . How could this be ? The first thing to remember is that members of Congress didn ’ t get there by being lousy politicians . They know as well as you and I that Congress is unpopular , and they ’ re masters at running against it — appearing to be outsiders trying to get in , rather than insiders who produce the Congress they pretend to disdain . Just as important , incumbents enjoy an overwhelming advantage in elections . They have a large staff whose jobs focus on helping constituents . They ’ re paid a good salary , so they don ’ t have to worry about supporting their families while they campaign . They get to spend their terms effectively campaigning year-round , not just at election time , and they are able to saturate their state or district with mass mailings . Incumbents get the honored place in the parade , the prime speaking position , the upper hand when it comes to raising money ; challengers have to fight for visibility and money . In fact , challengers are at a disadvantage at almost every point in a campaign . From building

‘ A Disfunctional

Congress ’

A Disfunctional Congress Indiana University Jacksonville , Florida August 2014


name recognition to arranging meetings to building credibility with editorial boards , donors , and opinion leaders , they ’ re trudging uphill . But there ’ s another reason incumbents keep getting re-elected that ’ s also worth considering : voters — that ’ s us . Most Americans don ’ t vote , and those who do often cast their ballots for narrow or unusual reasons . They like the way they got treated by the incumbent ’ s staff , or they shook his or her hand at a county fair , or they like his or her stand on a particular social or economic issue . Whatever the case , they don ’ t look at an incumbent ’ s entire record : votes on a cross-section of vital issues ; willingness to work with members of different ideologies and backgrounds ; ability to explain Washington back home and represent home in Washington ; skill at forging consensus on tough policy challenges . It ’ s really no mystery that incumbent members get re-elected . Their advantages are baked into the system . – The Center on Congress at Indiana University Reprinted from the EDITORIAL PAGE OPINION PALATKA DAILY NEWS • SATURDAY , AUGUST
9 , 2014 Wayne Knuckles , Publisher Al Krombach , Editor Community Newspapers , Inc .