Journalist Michael Kinsley once defined a political gaffe as when someone "accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head." In other words, a gaffe is when a political player accidentally tells the truth. This appears to be what happened in a recent Washington Post story.
Tens of millions of Americans disapprove of the way both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are doing their jobs. According to the hometown paper for America's political class, this makes them "haters."
You read that right.
According to the Post's view of the world, there are now three teams in American politics: those who approve of Democrats, those who approve of Republicans and the haters. This is how the paper officially labeled people like me, even as it notes that we're a "significant and growing share of the electorate."
This wasn't just a casual reference by a lazy journalist. Not only did the paper of the political elite produce tables and graphics with the "haters" label; they wrote an entire article about how "Haters Gonna Hate."
It truly boggles my mind to think that this is the label it intentionally and thoughtfully chose.
From my perspective, I can think of many more appropriate terms to describe those who disapprove of the way both parties in Congress are behaving. If I were going for complete descriptive neutrality, I might define the three groups as Democrat supporters, Republican supporters and other (or perhaps neither). A more colorful approach would be to describe the third group as the adults needed to supervise the behavior of Congress.
However you choose to describe this group, it's hard for anybody outside Washington to completely disagree with the paper's assessment. We're talking about a Congress that can't produce a budget but did produce an unworkable health care law. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress think it's OK for the National Security Agency to read our emails and listen to our phone calls. Both parties are comfortable with crony capitalism and happy to steer sweetheart deals to their friends and allies.
Even worse, election practices that protect incumbents mean that 90 percent of us have absolutely no say who "represents" us in Congress. We are simply assigned to a congressman or woman who cares little about what we think.
Given those realities, people who disapprove of both parties in Congress might best be described as realistic or pragmatic.
A pragmatist can readily concede that the overwhelming majority of those in Congress were good people who went to Washington with a true desire to serve their country. At the same time, we can plainly see that those elected politicians entered a corrupt and dysfunctional institution, which makes it hard for even the good guys to do good things.
We don't need to hate anybody to recognize that Congress is doing a lousy job.
What troubles me more than the performance of Congress, though, is how the Washington Post came up with the designation of Haters. Was it an unconscious mistake or a deliberate attempt to stigmatize those who don't share the political class worldview?
In either case, the Post is wrong. Those of us who disapprove of both parties in Congress are simply waiting for Congress to do something worthy of our approval.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and former president of Rasmussen Reports. He is the author of “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System,” “In Search of Self-Governance,” and “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt.” Read more reports from Scott Rasmussen — Click Here Now.