A new Washington Post-ABC News National Poll asked whether people thought the current political system in the United States is basically functional or basically dysfunctional. Thirty-three percent of those polled answered that it was functional and 64 percent responded that it was dysfunctional.
In the same poll, when asked if it was important that the next president have some experience with the way the political system works or not, 40 percent wanted someone from outside the political establishment while 56 percent want someone from within the current system. While the response from the majority may seem counterintuitive based on our current situation, it seems the public believes that while the current political system is dysfunctional, they do want a president who has experience with our dysfunctional system.
The fact that September highlights congressional dysfunction makes the response to the first question more than understandable. After all, the start of September not only signals the start of a new school year, but the beginning of Washington's annual ritual -- will Congress shut down the government or will someone in leadership throw a successful Hail Mary pass that saves the day hours (or minutes) before midnight on September 30th? The Post asked a number of congressional experts to give their odds on the likelihood of another government shutdown and their guesses ranged from 50 percent likelihood to 67 percent. This is not very encouraging for the country.
The 114th Congress has not completed work on any of the 12 annual appropriations bills which fund the government. The House has passed six of the 12 bills while the Senate has not passed any. The House is only scheduled to be in for eight days between now and the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1st. Funding the government is one of Congress' most fundamental roles, yet we find ourselves facing a rerun of past years. The country deserves to have Congress focused on making policy instead of garnering headlines for all they are not doing.
So here we sit at Dysfunction Junction. Will Congress surprise us all and fund the government in time? Will there be a presidential candidate -- with or without prior political experience -- who convinces us that they can get our country back on the right path? The answer to both questions is up to all of us. We hold the map that can get us out of this mess, so reach out to your members of Congress and tell them you want them to do their job -- which is to keep the government up and running. And pay attention to what the presidential candidates are saying. Ask them questions about what they are going to do, how they think they can change things. And demand actual answers, not political slogans. Most importantly, in November 2016, vote.