Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Employing the Do-Nothing Congress Argument

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | National political pundits say Democrats will attempt to make increasing the minimum wage a major campaign issue this year. We’re already hearing smatterings of this strategy across the country. However, House incumbents across the land will almost assuredly be countered with a refrain similar to what Ro Khanna outlined in an Op-Ed published Tuesday.

 In short, he argues, voters loathe members of Congress and dislike them even more after the most recent session became infamous for being the least productive in American history.

The laundry list of grievances ensues: “The federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years. Unemployment benefits expired for 1.3 million people. Comprehensive immigration reform stalled. A decaying national infrastructure was ignored. The minimum wage remained far too low to address growing inequality,” Khanna wrote in the San Jose Mercury News.

Khanna, who is opposing Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, takes it a step further by linking Washington’s inaction with the perceived misery it has wrought on Americans. “So it's not surprising that Congress has a public approval rating that hovers around 10 percent,” says Khanna. “Yet, while families across America are suffering the consequences of congressional inaction in the form of lost wages, benefits and vacations, those responsible continue living high on the hog.”

The deft populist angle is expertly done. In fact, this editorial could act as a blueprint for nearly every candidate opposing an entrenched incumbent across the nation.

Furthermore, it is laden with buzzwords likely to resonate with disenchanted voters. Phrases used by Khanna in this piece, such as “gold-plated” congressional pensions, a “pay-to-play” system of campaign finance and “all-expense-paid” junkets rile voters already inclined to throw the bums out while also grabbing the attention of those on the fence.

The entire argument for Khanna and others is potent when you tie it altogether. Not only do these public officials receive so many perks of their office, but they don’t even have to accomplish a thing in exchange for the benefits they enjoy. We'll see how it plays out. But, remember, polling has consistently shown that, although voters dislike Congress in record numbers, they also tend to think their own representatives are not necessarily the problem.


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