Apathy, outrage and frustration about America’s democracy are increasingly fueled by historic low approval ratings of Congress. Rather than representing the people, Congress is perceived to be more and more beholding to corporate and special interests. Throwing pillows at the TV or ranting on social media reflect the reactions of many, while others just tune out and say the situation is hopeless.
A new poll from the AP-NORC Center found that 85 percent of Americans, including 89 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, disapprove of the job Congress is doing. (AP News, Feb. 26, 2018).
A new study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Barbara with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that only about 2 in 10 said they think Congress pays much attention to their own constituents or Americans as a whole, or even give much consideration to the best interests of those people. Instead, most said Congress does listen to lobbyists, donors and the wealthy.
Congress has rarely been especially popular in polls conducted over the past several decades, but approval of the House and Senate’s performance has been particularly low over the past several years, as noted by Laurie Kellman and Emily Swanson of AP News. In polling by Gallup, Congress’ approval rating has been below 20 percent for eight straight years.
Encouraging signs are emerging that people are prepared to exercise their rights as citizens to make Congress more accountable. A growing number of citizens, particularly women, are throwing their hats into the ring and running for Congress. In the wake of the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, a massive youth voter registration campaign has emerged and more attention is being focused on holding accountable those Congressmen who have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA and are resisting any common sense gun control initiatives.
Individuals may feel powerless to change the way Congress works. Democracy4Change.org wants to change that by empowering ordinary citizens to take action. Democracy4change.org is dedicated to highlighting the ways ordinary citizens can make a difference in protecting our democratic values and making our government more responsive to the will of the people.
The main way citizens can make a difference is at the ballot box. Once elected, you can write or call your representatives to let them know your views.
Organizations like Open Secrets.org (a non-partisan, independent and not-for-profit organization), are available to help you track the voting records of your representatives in Congress and how you can contact them. Find your representative here. OpenSecrets.org is the nation’s premier website tracking the influence of money on U.S. politics, and how that money affects policy and citizens’ lives.
You can also take action by supporting organizations like OpenSecrets.org and Common Cause, another non-partisan, not for profit public interest organization, which has an initiative to hold the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) accountable. Through ALEC, some of the nation’s largest and richest companies invest millions of dollars each year to pass state laws putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. Due to controversies about ALEC’s secretive operations, controversial agenda, and public pressure from Common Cause and its allies, over 100 major companies have left ALEC since 2011, including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, McDonalds, Walmart, Bank of America, Visa, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, BP, and T-Mobile. Learn more about ALEC here. Common Cause also has corporate accountability, lobbying, and campaign finance programs which you may want to consider supporting.
A number of other organizations dedicated to holding Congress accountable are deserving of your support. Check out the Take Action section of this website for other ways that you can get engaged on issues that may be of concern to you. Let us know about other organizations or initiatives so that we can make this website more useful to readers seeking to take action to make Congress responsive to citizens and not to lobbyists and the wealthy.