Why Americans are Angry and D.C. is Broken

Monday, February 22, 2010

A new CNN poll finds that 86 percent of Americans think that government is broken. This week, we kick off a series called "Frustration Nation," where we examine the gridlock in the capital and how politics has come to be so divisive in America. For the first installment, we put today's situation in a historical context.

We talk with Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology at Harvard University and Julian Zelizer, Congressional Historian at Princeton University. They help explain the sentiment among the electorate today.

Earlier today, we kicked off the conversation with Skocpol and Rick Perlstein, author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America."


Rick Perlstein, Theda Skocpol and Julian Zelizer

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [17]

J.V.hodgson from Peekskill NY

The anger is not new, but is perhaps more widespread and includes Tea party activisits and Democrats and especially independents who are fed up of the
a) Republicans totally dedicated to ideological solutions.
b) Democrats because they constantly behave as though they are three separte parties one part almost completely socialist, moderate liberals, and then the almost "republican rightist liberal democrats"
c) The big money needed in the US system to oppose it meaning having a realistic number of " REAL INDEPEDENTS" to enter the House or Senate electoral races and win! Add to that a lack of honesty by certain Democrats ( fewer perhaps but also Republicans) when what they are is "Independents " in reality, but need the " funding and support to get elected!!
The final point is toomuch monet in politics and hust made worse by the SCOTUS.

Mar. 01 2010 02:48 AM
Dan Heist from Massachusetts

Republicans talk bipartisanship;
always act obstructionist.

Feb. 24 2010 09:32 AM
John Phillips from South Carolina

There appears to be an unstated assumption that gridlock is a bad thing. I totally disagree. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Civil Rights Act, most of the laws Congress passes are bad for the country and take away more of our freedoms (Clinton's tax increases and gun control laws, Bush's "Patriot Act," and Obama's mandate to buy private health insurance). If Congress is stuck in gridlock, at least they aren't doing any harm to the country by passing bad laws and taking away more freedoms.

Feb. 23 2010 12:32 AM
Gary Sisler from Miami Fla

Congress deserves its' dismal rating. They work
only 1 1/2 days/week, get full pensions after only
12 years, whichever party holding power controls
hearings, act like drunks addicted to earmarks,
refuse to deal with desparate need to modernize
because they all want to be on about 12 committees......The 9-11 commission stated Congress prepared to deal with another 9/11..Congressional reaction - zero. So, we have Homeland Security forced to report to over 100 commitees and subcomitees. Congress encourages obscene level of lobbyist so they can be lobbyist when out of Congress.

Feb. 22 2010 04:42 PM

Some commenters here want a return to "true filibuster rules."

The current rules, in which different bills can be mutlitracked in the Senate, with individual bills being filibustered, while work goes on with other Senate business, were largely authored by Democrat Robert Byrd. Back in the days of the Civil Rights legislation, Southern Dmeocrats wanted to filibuster civil rights legislation effectively, without stopping all other Senate business. They succeeded, with Byrd's rule-change.

Only after Senate Republicans joined with liberal Northern Democrats, was that particular filibuster broken, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Democrats gave us the current Senate rules. And Senate Democrats have made full use of those rules whenever it suited them.

Feb. 22 2010 12:27 PM
jim lahey from NYC

History is to blame as well our resistance to changing our notion of what representational democracy means; it is still organized around a dated , lets call it a 18th-19th century model of having elected officials representing a constituency; these officials then begin to appoint friends and cronies often times as favors to various departments and agencies to deal with the business of running government . The problem with this system, is that the representatives of today as with yesterday are more often advancing special interests; the companies that financed the elected official not of the desires of the people in general. Politicians seem more concerned with walking this fine line of the peoples desires and the private money that got them elected. Democracy is not a contest or competitive sport.
A solution would be for google ( i only example google , because it is so clear that the lethargy and in our existing government is incapable and unwilling to allow americans to decide for themselves, so long as the current system remains intact and unchallenged this could be dangerous for our"democracy") to send out a survey of how americans would like their taxpayer dollars appropriated and then based on this profile of expenditures elections could be held whereby the "representatives" know how the tax dollars need to be spent based on an actual survey. The internet makes it possible to evolve our concept of democracy. One person one vote. If somebody wants me to vote differently they could pay me out directly (not that i would sell!) rather than selling me out once they have achieved office. Let's cut the crap for paid advertising, it's a big waste of money. The monies saved alone during the electoral process would be enough to take a chunk of our debt. This would also allow americans to scale our government correctly.
Interactive governance. What a 21st century idea!

Feb. 22 2010 12:04 PM

Republicans are bound and determined to block anything that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress propose, regardless of the fact that the US faces serious problems. Being obstructionist further weakens the nation and causes greater suffering among our citizens, but they don't care. Their eyes are on the prize: regaining control of Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012, and the rest of us be damned. Fearful of not being reelected, Democrats have failed to have a backbone and stand up to Republican obstructionism. A filibuster threat? Fine, let the Republicans filibuster according to true filibuster rules. It won't last long because their prostates won't hold. President Obama has some great ideas, but he's failed to show the leadership necessary to implement them. He needs to stop putting ideas out there for Congress and Fox/MSNBC to debate. He must assume a leadership role, presenting fleshed-out proposals to accompany his ideas and then do what he does best, speak to us about them.

Feb. 22 2010 11:58 AM
Dan Thompson from Delray Beach, FL

I listened to some of your comments and that of your guest the morning and took away from it that it's all the Republican's fault for "grid lock". I'm amazed! The Democratic party held the "super majority" in the U.S. Senate and the overwhelming majority in the U.S. House and the U.S. President is a Democrat for a full year, how can the Republicans be blamed for obstruction? Maybe the programs and issues the Democrats are trying to pass don't sit well with their own party? Don't ask Republicans to get on board with programs that will and are bankrupting our country. Would you vote for something you didn't believe in? Maybe you and your guests need to understand what you're talking about.

Feb. 22 2010 11:55 AM
Pete from OK

Americans have to learn one plain fact: healthcare costs money. You can pay with your tax dollars or you can buy insurance. However, since insurance is more expensive most middle class Americans are being squeezed. As a healthcare provider I am now squeezed even more than ever with all the high-deductable plans and lowered and more strict reimbursement from my state. We need reform: tort law, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceuticals. We need it ALL reformed the problem with partisanship is that both sides have valid reforms that would end in a valuable bill. As it stands the bill is a Frankenstein's monster of unconstitutional promises to blue dogs and concessions to obstructionist republicans. The whole thing is a sad and embarassing spectacle of modern American politics. I guess the GOP forgot it was their president Bush who gave the unbelieveably huge deficit its massive foundation.

Feb. 22 2010 11:37 AM

The last previous "gridlock" crisis in the U.S. Senate was when the most-liberal Democrats (including Kennedy, Obama, Biden, Schumer, Durbin, Leahy and Mikulski) fillibustered President George W. Bush's federal judicial nominees. Among the nominees who were fillibustered was the respected Hispanic nominee, Miguel Estrada, to a seat on the Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrat staff memos revealed that Democrats feared that a Circuot Judge Estrada might someday be a strong Supreme Court nominee. So they fillibustered him.

Only the moderate, bipartisan "Gang of 14" finally broke the liberal Democrats' sranglehold.

Feb. 22 2010 10:34 AM

I noted that The Takeaway gave practically zero voice to the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spoke to this issue yesterday:


Where he quoted President Obama declaring that if Congress stopped now, it would already be one of the most productive Congresses in history.

Look, the complaints about "gridlock" relate largely to the Health Care bill. Which most Americans (according to an NPR poll) oppose.

The Democrats' main problem with health care has been that Democrats don't even agree with each other. Barbara Boxer and Bart Stupak disagree on abortion funding. Nancy Pelosi and Ben Nelson disagree on a "public option."

The ObamaCare bill has one gigantic problem, and it is that it is so leftist-leaning, that moderate Democrats can't even support it.

Feb. 22 2010 10:03 AM
j. schauerte from Parkland Fl.

I am totally frustrated with the whole process from the President to Congress and the Supreme Court. I voted for President Obama in the hopes that he could change the tone of politics in Washington but that hasn’t happened. This isn’t a result of his not trying and reaching out but from the Republicans saying no to everything once the president is for it.
I am upset with the judiciary when they allowed corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions. I could go on and on about this.
I fee the way to fix all these problems in Congress are to let the Senators filibuster everything instead of just threatening to do it. I also want to see the change filibuster rule to be a simple majority not 60 votes.

Feb. 22 2010 09:50 AM
lad22 from West Palm beach

The problem with Washington is that everyone in congress are already rich, you have to be to mount a successful campaign. They represent the top !% of the population in wealth. Why are they out of touch, why don't they care about health care reform, jobs?? They have great health care, their families have health care. They have jobs, their family all have jobs cuz they can pull strings to get their nephew a job etc. They don't live in our world, they are greedy and want to get as much for themselves while they are their and forget what their constituatnts want. When they are done, they are still rich!! The solution is along the lines of free media time for campaigns etc so anyone who has the desire to actually make things better can run for office and succeed.

Feb. 22 2010 09:47 AM

This was a disgustingly one-sided (altogether too typical of The Takeaway) "discussion."

"Theda Skopcal, Harvard Professor" might as well be "Theda Skopcal, Obama/Democrat Donor":


I don't mind your inviting Theda Skopcal on the program; just make it clear that she's a political activist in addition being a tenured college professor. (Wow, what a surprise!)

Next time, Takeaway, you might consider a balanced segment. Wait -- no, you won't do any such thing, will you?

Feb. 22 2010 09:47 AM
Gregory M. Bruce

It seems to me that while the Senate plays this game, the population at large are the losers.

Feb. 22 2010 09:42 AM

You can help!!!
Follow programs proposed by Democrats.
List specifically who voted against it and why.
If there are no arguments against the proposal and they still vote "no", we need to know who "they"are, by name. We can send them a tea bag with a skull drawn on it.

Follow programs proposed by Republicans.
List specifically who voted against it and why.
If there are no arguments against the proposal and they still vote "no", we need to know.
We need to know by name who the "say no to anything" are, We can send them a teabag with a skull printed on it.

We must stop these "little boys and girls" from ruining our country.

Feb. 22 2010 09:40 AM
CedricM from Miami

Its not the System which is the issue, it is the Senators.

It is not the fact that legislation passes slowly, but that the legislation that does move is never in the interest of the population.

Senators and special interest are the frustration, not the system.

On a personal note, after seeing the legalized transfer of debt from the banks to the population and the butchery of the healthcare bill before our eyes... I for one am glad we have a system that has the ability to stop trainwreks in thier tracks.

DO NOT change the system... change the players.

Feb. 22 2010 09:33 AM

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