July's terrifying news from the Gallup organization shows Congressional job approval now stands at 16%.
And that's no blip or dip. Gallup adds, "While slightly above February's record-low 10%, approval is still on the extreme low end of the historical range Gallup has recorded since 1974."
As it's each American's constitutional job to use our votes to hire, keep, or fire various Congress people biannually, we are their CEOs.
How are we doing?
Well if one definition of "insanity" is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result then we, the CEOs of Congress, are nuts.
I work with executive clients every day, and can tell you in no uncertain terms: if you were a mentally competent CEO with a division of 535 employees with whom you're dissatisfied 84% or more of the time, year after year, you'd fire them. Particularly during these challenging times, which are in part brought to you by, well, Congress.
In gleefully filling out their termination paperwork, you'd consider the situation carefully. You'd recall convicted, jailed, and released influence-peddling super lobbyist Jack Abramoff's comment to Lesley Stahl on CBS's 60 Minutes that Congress remains as corrupt as it was: "No, the system hasn't been cleaned up at all."
Then you'd write up these bad apples for partial job abandonment. They are paid as full time, but work an average of two to three days per week. Though given how awful their performance has been for so many years, their AWOL ways might be better than full time. Because when they DO show up for work, many are openly committed to obstructing anything that might even resemble progress. They do that, ironically, because they think it helps them keep their jobs.
Finally, you'd remember you're paying each of them a base salary of $174,000 per year, not to mention healthcare and other benefits that would make even the most hardened Socialist blush.
When it comes to our Congress people, maybe they smell bad, but at least they're familiar, right? Give them another chance. Just rearrange a few of them. We'll make do. I've heard that name, so I'll check the box. He's always on Fox News. Rush likes him. Wasn't she married to Sonny Bono? Oh they're all crooks, so who cares, just vote for the usual. What can I do? I'm just one person.
And the beat goes on.
This set of rationalizations is what I call the "voter insanity defense," and it has to stop.
How? Well, vote and tell a friend to fire at least 84 percent of the incumbents for the next two two-year election cycles. Those who replace them, even randomly, MUST be better than what we have.
In fact, the Congressional election is more important than the race for the White House, because a 16% or worse Congress is a shared weakness for both presidential candidates.
Congress can't be managed like a CEO might do. The president can't fire them, and can't declare them bankrupt, however tempting that might be. S/he can't divest them. As a result, Mr. Romney's stance that his business background prepares him for the nation's top job is wrong-headed. Run on your record as Governor. Oh wait, that's a problem.
Similarly, President Obama has proven that he can't work around or influence Congressional obstructionism in an effective way. That he's tough on terrorism but putty on the Hill has been a bane (pun intended) to his presidency, and there's no sign of change ahead.
The presidential election is important, but the Congressional election will make or break our nation for many more years to come.
To be clear, I'm hopeful. I can imagine a greater America where we stop the voter insanity defense, read up on the Congressional candidates, and give our best efforts to inflict a tidal wave of change on Capitol Hill. Our votes give us the power, and it's up to each of us to exercise the leadership that goes with it. If we don't, we'll still be in the low teens when Gallup comes around, again, and again, and again. Now is the time to stop the madness.
David Peck is an Executive Coach, author of Beyond Effective: Practices in Self-aware Leadership (Trafford: 2008), and writes the Recovering Leader blog.