Questioning Democrats' 'Failure to Communicate'

Two-thirds of Democrats don't think Congress has accomplished much

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A new National Journal/Pew Research Center poll reveals that, far from embracing the legislative accomplishments of the last two years of Congress, Democrats are largely ambivalent about them. Only one third of Democrats stated that Congress has accomplished "more" than usual while 37 percent said that it accomplished the "same" and the rest perceived that it done "less" than prior sessions. The poll also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that 77 percent of all voters perceive the legislators are bickering "far more" than usual, the highest that number has been in more than 17 years. The results were surprising to most political observers, who blamed the Democratic leadership for failing to articulate just how much far-reaching legislation was passed since 2008.

  • I Don't Want To Read Too Much Into One Poll But "this is nonetheless really striking if it comes anywhere near approximating opinion among Dems," notes The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, who puts out several theories to explain the numbers: "Maybe this speaks to an enormous Dem failure to communicate their successes. Or maybe it's another sign of how bloated expectations were amid the euphoria of Obama's win. Or perhaps the sense of just how monumental our problems are -- and the fact that Dems secured such large Congressional majorities -- led rank and file Dems to expect truly historic, paradigm shifting levels of leadership. Whichever it is, these numbers shed fascinating new light on the enthusiasm gap problem."

  • Even If You Disagree With the Democratic Agenda This Is an 'Astounding Result' finds Time's Kate Pickert. "Regardless of whether you agree with what Democrats have done with their large majorities in congress and control of the White House, it's clear they notched some rather large legislative victories. Health care reform, the stimulus, financial reform are the big three. And Democrats didn't notice? Well, maybe they did, but they felt previous Congresses - like those with Republicans agendas - also accomplished a lot, even if it was at odds with their own priorities. Maybe there's a problem with using the word 'accomplish' in a poll question."
  • The Reason Republicans Are So Angry Is That Congress Has Been Doing A Lot writes The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, who "as least" hoped in the poll that Americans could see the "scope" of the accomplishments. "What's worth acknowledging is that we haven't seen this many accomplishments, on this scale, in decades," he asserts. "Norm Ornstein has characterized this Congress as being the most productive in 45 years....Whether rank-and-file Democrats realize it or not, this is why the Republicans' right-wing base is as animated this year as is it -- it's not because Dems are pushing a lot of key progressive priorities that have languished for years; it's because Dems are passing a lot of key progressive priorities that have languished for years."
  • Liberals Are Getting More 'Petulant'  Or at least these types of polls seem to indicate this to The New Republic's Jonathan Chait. He dismisses the notion that Congress has hasn't gotten anything done: "This is just nuts. This is, objectively, a very productive Congress. Now, right-wingers think it's been productive at dystopian, freedom-destroying confiscations of wealth that remind them of an Ayn Rand novel. But clearly Congress is doing a lot. The fact that Democrats think Congress has accomplished little is evidence of some kind of chronic depressive tendency."
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