Pat Buchanan

Public confidence in Congress has plummeted to the lowest level of any institution since Gallup began asking the question in 1973. One-half of all Americans have little or no confidence in the Congress.

Only 11 percent have a "great deal" or "a lot of" confidence in what is, given its place of primacy in the Constitution, the first branch of government and the branch most representative of the people.

The house of such giants as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Henry Cabot Lodge, the greatest legislative body in the world that was home to John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" who decided the questions of war and peace, Reconstruction and civil rights is now looked upon with pervasive mistrust.

Of the 16 major institutions of which the question was asked, Congress' closest competitor for the least trusted was HMOs.

And this poll was taken after President Obama achieved what is being hailed by his party as the greatest legislative accomplishment since Medicare and Social Security.

Not only is this bad news for the Democratic Party this fall, it is reflective of the disdain if not contempt in which the nation's political class is held by those they govern. Three times as many Americans have confidence in the Supreme Court as have in Congress.

And though Obama has been through a rough patch, three times as many Americans retain confidence in his office as have confidence in the Congress. Even when Bush was at his nadir, in 2008, 26 percent professed a high level of confidence in the presidency, more than twice those who today have confidence in the institution led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

This would also seem to be bad news for democracy, as the closest competitor to Congress in public disregard was the 2008 Congress that enjoyed the trust of only one in eight Americans.

But the poll reveals even more about us as a people.

Only three institutions of the 16 have the solid confidence of the nation with more than 50 percent saying they have high confidence or a lot of confidence in them: the military at 76 percent, down from 82 percent a year ago, small business at 66 percent and the police at 58 percent.

All three institutions tend to be male-dominated, conservative and hierarchical. Two of the three feature men with guns -- the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who defend us from foreign enemies, and the thin blue line that defends us from the predators at home. Americans have a far greater appreciation of those who risk their lives to defend our country than for those who write its laws.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
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