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1994 was a banner year for Republicans. Riding dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, which held the majority in Congress and the Presidency, Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to an upset in the Congressional races and took control of the House of Representatives with their Contract On America. Or was that Contract With America? By the time we found out the way this thing was going to play out, it felt like the Republicans had taken out a contract on America.
The important thing about that election was what led up to it. The average disapproval rating of Congress in all the polls was 72%. Only 28% of Americans liked the job Congress was doing as they went to polls to “kick the bums out!”
Today, it appears that the Republicans who have been in the House since then have forgotten what got them there. Perhaps it’s those gerrymandered, Republican-drawn Congressional districts. Maybe it’s the irresistible power of Republican-favoring higher beings on Fox News and talk radio. Perhaps they are completely certain of the impact of their efforts to disenfranchise the poor. Whatever the reason, they are not paying much attention to the fact that they have hit the bottom of the barrel in Congressional approval ratings. Gallup has them tied with the previous low mark of 18%, while the Associated Press GfK poll places their approval at only 12%.
Twelve percent. That’s less than half what it was in 1994 when the American public “threw the bums out.” Even 18% is ten points lower than the approval rating that wiped out an incumbent Congress.
Even with those numbers, the Republicans are hell-bent to continue on their obstructionist path – demanding set-offs for FEMA disaster relief, demanding that all budget cutting come from “entitlements” and discretionary spending and none from defense, demanding laws about abortion and de-funding Planned Parenthood take precedent over jobs, demanding that the tax cuts for the rich that only 20% of us approve of be passed. No matter what their constituents tell him in town hall meetings or the polls tell them about the Ryan Budget or the national credit rating downgrade or the continued high unemployment, they are determined to follow their ideological path.
Now, contrast that with President Obama’s ratings. The average of the tracking polls (according to RealClearPolitics.com) puts the President at a 43.2% approval rating, with a 50.8 disapproval rating. Those numbers are within 1% of President Clinton’s approval-disapproval numbers in September 1994, when he was about to lose the support of Congress. How blind or arrogant do the Republicans have to be to see that President Obama’s approval ratings are 2.4 to 3.6 times what theirs are?
What is needed now is for the Democratic election teams to realize that they can ride that 82% to 88% disapproval rating just the way Newt Gingrich and the “New Republicans” rode the 72% disapproval rating of Congress in 1994 to victory. I hate to advocate using Newt as a role model, but if it works, so be it.