On The Daily Show last night, Jon Stewart explained a true U.S. electoral tradition: disapproving of Congress but reelecting most members anyway. So how do those members of Congress who seem like they've been there forever stay in office?
"Midterm elections right around the corner, Congress' approval rating is in the tweens – it's time once again to raise a cry of 'Throw the bums out!', and then reelect 90 percent of said bums," Stewart said.
And he's right: reelection rates for incumbents are historically very high. "How do these guys keep getting reelected term after term? " Stewart asked. For his first case study, he looked at Rep. Charlie Rangel.
"83 years old and 43 years in office, censured by Congress in 2010 ... extensive financial malfeasance," Stewart said. So what does Rangel do to keep himself in office? Let's take a look at his primary race this year.
At the start of one of his debates, Rangel simply picked up his cell phone. Except the phone never rang. "Either he had to take a very important call from his urologist during the debate, or he's about to launch into a debate ... Charlie Rangel did his entire opening statement in the form of a gag phone call with someone who just happened to want to know really terrible things about the two candidates sitting next to him," Stewart explained.
"I think this is how Charlie Rangel stays in office so long. Yes he's corrupt, but he's very likable. I mean, he figured out how to be a total dick to the guy sitting right next to him without having to have any responsibility for said dickishness," Stewart went on.
But there is one way to put an end to these long terms, just ask Rep. John Conyers. "So without term limits, we just have to wait until Congress people get so old they lose signatures like keys," Stewart quipped.
Well, there you have it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.