Only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a poll released this week by Gallup. That's lower than any such figure since Gallup started tracking congressional approval in 1974. For the year, Congress has an average approval rating of 17 percent, also a historic low. A Pew Research Center poll also released this week showed that 50 percent of voters (another record) believe that this Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses.
And this isn't a case of a pox on both parties. While Democrats are not liked, voters have a special distaste for the GOP, according to Pew. By almost two-to-one (40 percent to 23 percent) more voters blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for Congress's lack of accomplishment. Voters also see the GOP as being more extreme (53 to 33 percent), while they say Democrats are more willing to work with the other side (51 to 25 percent) and are "more honest and ethical" (45 to 28 percent).
The big beneficiary of the Tea Party Congress's tone deaf overreach, and specifically its incoherent approach to the payroll tax cut, has been President Obama. His job approval wallowed in the low 40s for the last few months, but polls released this week by ABC and CNN showed his rating ticking back up to 49 percent. "President Barack Obama's approval rating appears to be fueled by dramatic gains among middle-income Americans," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The data suggest that the debate over the payroll tax is helping Obama's efforts to portray himself as the defender of the middle class."
Defending the middle class is the kind of political sweet spot which wins elections. To the extent House Republicans are not only ceding that ground but practically inviting Obama to occupy it, they are victims of a train wreck of their own devising.
And the wreck in front of the National Christmas Tree? As I looked on, another pair of visitors climbed the fence and set the train back on the tracks. I like to think voters will do the same next November.