Everybody hates Congress.
Not exactly a news flash, is it? These days the frustration with - and outright dislike of - Congress is accepted background not only for the voting public, but also for lots of congressional candidates, who routinely disparage the performance of the government they hope to join.
But there's also evidence that voters 50 and older, in particular, are just plain fed up with government. And that dynamic could have an impact on close races this fall.
Sure, people are angry because the nation's economy tanked and is climbing back at a painfully slow rate. What's remarkable is that older Americans place more of the blame for their troubles on politicians than on the sputtering economy, according a recent AARP survey. Asked to name the factor with the biggest negative impact on their personal economic circumstances, 44 percent of voters 50 and older said political gridlock in Washington and 40 percent said the economic downturn of the past four years.
An AARP survey in January showed that 61 percent of 50-plus voters called gridlock in Washington a "very important'' problem, compared with 41 percent of younger voters.
In the more than 10,000 miles I traveled this summer to interview 50-plus voters in six states for the AARP Bulletin, irritation with Washington was a consistent theme among voters, be they Democrat, Republican or independent, rural or urban, Western or Northeastern. "It's the opposite of progress in Congress now, it's to the extreme, everything's at a standstill,'' Ann Eggebrecht, a 66-year-old retiree in St. Louis, told me. Members of Congress "only care about getting re-elected,'' Bradford Cook, a 64-year-old lawyer in Manchester, N.H., said. "We hire people to go [to Washington] who don't want to be there.''
Come November, should enough voters feel the same way, perhaps a few more politicians than usual will find themselves - just like too many of their constituents - out of work. -Susan Milligan