Last week's elections drove home the message that incumbents are in trouble, particularly in Congress. Its approval ratings are abysmally low — 22 percent, according to an average of six national polls on RealClearPolitics.com. Lawmakers have only themselves to blame.
Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder, a "family values" champion, had to resign last week after confessing that he had an affair with a woman on his payroll. One of her jobs was to help her married boss make a video for constituents — touting the virtues of sexual abstinence.
This was only the latest in a series of recurring — and bipartisan — scandals. Voters in West Virginia recently gave a pink slip to 14-term Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan, who was dogged by allegations that he unethically funneled millions of federal dollars to nonprofit groups run by friends and business associates.
The traditional remedy for discredited politicians is to throw the rascals out. Lately, that hasn't worked out so well.
In 2006, Democratic lawmakers were swept into office in a wave of anti-incumbent fervor and a promise to clean up Capitol Hill. The House and Senate imposed new ethics rules, but it did little to alter the public perception that lawmakers are merely out to help themselves instead of helping the country.
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