Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

10% of Americans like Congress: Are they nuts?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
October 2, 2013 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
A woman buys the New York Daily News with a headline that reflects what many Americans think about Congress.
A woman buys the New York Daily News with a headline that reflects what many Americans think about Congress.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN poll shows Congress has only a 10% approval rating.
  • Dean Obeidallah asks "Who are these people?" and goes in search of them
  • Nobody admitted to being a "Ten Percenter," but lots of people speculated on them
  • Obeidallah: Vote out the bums who burn down government to advance their careers

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" which was released this month. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Our Congress sucks. This is truly one of the few things we agree on. In fact, a new CNN poll released earlier this week found that Congress has only a 10% approval rating.

When you think that 10% of Americans believe Congress is doing a good job, you have to ask yourself one question: Who are these people?! (Imagine this asked with true Jerry Seinfeld-esque exasperation.)

Congress is so dysfunctional that dictators in other countries are probably pointing at it as an example of why you should never have a democracy.

Yet, somehow, about 30 million Americans are looking at what Congress is doing and thinking: "I like what I see."

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

If you actually think Congress is doing a good job, something is terribly awry in your life. People in your family need to stage an immediate intervention.

I was so intrigued by these people who have such horribly low standards (where were they when I was still dating?) that I went on to social media to find them. I posed questions on Facebook and Twitter asking if anyone is among this exclusive club known to me as the "Ten Percenters."

What was the response? No one admitted to it. But a few offered theories regarding who these people could be:

Shutdown: Couple may cancel wedding
A day in the life of a 'non-essential'
Kids say compromise shouldn't be so hard

"It's probably friends and family of Congress," Ahmed Elsayed posted on Facebook.

"Ten percent of Americans are in a COMA?!?!" Laurence Cruz tweeted. I'm pretty confident he's not related to Sen. Ted Cruz.

Keith Conrad tweeted a cynical but possibly accurate view: "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

How could it be that no one knows who these people are? Could it be that those who said they approved of Congress were kidding? Perhaps the pollster asked, "Do you think Congress is doing a good job?" and they responded: "Fabulous," but they meant that sarcastically?

Because all I can say is -- If you do know people who actually believe Congress is doing a good job, please watch over them carefully. These are the type of people that lead to warning labels on products like bleach that state "Do not drink" and on blow dryers that read: "For external use only."

To help me in my search, if you know someone who's a Ten Percenter, or if you're among that rare breed and want to explain yourself, please tweet @CNNOpinion.

Let's get back to the real issue: Congress. Besides mocking it with lines like, "Congress is now less popular than syphilis," what can actually be done to remedy the situation?

Some say we should impeach or recall Congress. Well, you can't. The Constitution only provides one procedure to remove members of Congress. Want to guess who decides on when that happens? Yup, it's Congress.

It takes a two-thirds vote of Congress itself to expel a member. The only people who think that Congress would vote themselves out of a job that pays $174,000 a year plus health benefits are the 10% of Americans who think Congress is doing a good job.

Can we realistically hope that since the congressional approval rating is so low that there will be a big house cleaning in the 2014 midterm elections on its own? Unlikely.

Even in 2012, when Congress was riding "high" with an abysmal 18% approval rating, did we see many members of Congress booted? Nope. In fact, 90% of the members of Congress who sought re-election in 2012 won.

The reality is that Congressional districts have been crafted (aka gerrymandered) by state legislatures in an often grotesque fashion, rendering a large number of congressional seats uncompetitive. Consequently, congressional reps have the freedom to be more unbearable and less compromising than ever before.

So what else can we do? Some call for term limits -- which I think is a great idea -- although you never know if the same politicians would just be voted in again. And to implement that, we would have to amend the U.S. Constitution. There are two procedures to do that: Congress starts the process by passing a resolution in support of the proposition with a two-thirds vote. Ain't gonna happen.

The other method is by way of a Constitutional Convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. That is a possibility if a large grassroots movement emerged, but it's challenging. Not one of the 27 amendments to our Constitution were enacted by this procedure.

The easiest way is to effect change is to pledge to collectively put aside partisan politics and vote only for candidates in the 2014 primaries and general election who run on a platform of going to Congress to work in a bipartisan manner for our common good. It's time we send home those people who would want the world to burn because it helps them get on TV and furthers their own political ambitions.

If we do this, then one day we might have a Congress that not only has an approval rating above most venereal diseases, but one we can actually be proud of.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT