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Jon Stewart Comparing Congress to Herpes is Hilariously Accurate

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
Jon Stewart's satirical examination of Congress is often full of accurate criticisms about how the legislative branch has conducted its business over the years. No examination may highlight the problems with our electoral system more than a 14 percent approval rating that somehow runs parallel with a 95 percent incumbency rate.

"[F]ourteen percent disapproval to 95 percent incumbency is the same disapproval to recurrence ratio currently enjoyed by the Herpes virus," Stewart says.

Funny comparison? Yes. Accurate comparison? Well, I am not sure what public polling there is on the Herpes virus, but I am going to say yes to this as well.

Think about it. People who have this virus are stuck with it for life, there are only temporary remedies, it has no benefits, and people don't like to talk about it. In case you forgot, I was talking about Herpes and not Congress, but doesn't that say something?

Due to a system the two dominant parties have a firm grip on and manipulate to their benefit, we are (at the moment) stuck with the hyper-partisan environment we currently see in Washington -- an environment that is only getting worse.

The party that controls Congress could shift, which may have provided temporary relief in the past, but hasn't done anything to solve the nation's problems and hasn't produced anything close to resembling change over the last decade.

The voter bases of the two parties are moving more to the right on the Republican side and more to the left on the Democratic side. These also happen to be the people who historically are the most reliable voters in primary elections -- meaning the politicians who end up surviving the primary process are the ones who can successfully appeal to these base voters.

It is no coincidence that we have seen an increase in lawmakers in Congress -- especially in the U.S. House -- who approach legislating with unalterable ideological views that challenge initial perceptions of where the political extremes in the United States are.

Primaries are an integral stage in the election process. In 95 percent of congressional districts, the primary winner in the majority party is pretty much guaranteed victory in the general election. So when partisan voters essentially choose who these lawmakers will be, more politicians who are committed to a set ideology -- political fundamentalists, if you will -- are elected to Congress.

Some thought the Republican leadership would be able to control these extreme elements within their party now that the GOP has full control of Congress. However, the 25 Republicans who voted against Boehner in some manner on Tuesday raised some eyebrows -- indicating that the 114th Congress may not be more productive even when one party controls both chambers.

There are certainly major problems with campaign finance and ballot access laws, but until we see electoral reform and reform in more states to change how electoral districts are drawn and who draws them, we will never see a cure to hyper-partisanship in Congress. Campaign finance reform would not be enough. Ballot access reform would not be enough. Term limits would not be enough (and may actually make things worse).

The American people, a majority of whom feel disenfranchised or disenchanted by the current political system, are not adequately represented by most of the 435 members of the U.S. House, and yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday insisted that her fellow lawmakers give the American people an applause for re-electing them.

The applause that followed was as patronizing and void of substance as Pelosi's words. Everything Congress does is an insult to the American people -- whether it is something relatively small as starting the new session on Tuesday and beginning the day at noon (as Stewart mocks) or being paid far more than the average American while refusing to do their jobs.

Partisanship is a disease and unfortunately the nation cannot just take a shot of penicillin and everything will be alright. There is no single solution to the problem. But like with any disease, looking for a cure must start at the source. In this case, this means the foundation of our republic: elections.

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