Congress's terrible approval ratings have finally been explained — turns out, America's elected representatives are so fucking irritating because they talk at roughly the level of sophomores in high school, which means they can't possibly be legislating at anything higher than a 7th grade level. We've put mental teenagers in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world.
The Sunlight Foundation made the grim announcement this morning, when they released the results of their annual analysis of Congressional floor speech patterns. We can now count on our elected officials to debate each other with the same sort of verbal flair and sophistication one could expect from a pontificating high school sophomore. No wonder Chuck Grassley keeps dropping Justin Bieber references during floor debates, and why the last filibuster eventually devolved into Senate Republicans looking at each other and singing "Call Me Maybe" while Majority Leader Harry Reid tried, unsuccessfully, to drown them out by saying "Ok, you guys, that would have been cool, like, three months ago! God. According to the study,
Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level.
Smug coastal liberal elites can smile satisfactorily when they hear what's next: blame for the drop in urbanity lies nearly squarely on the shoulders of the Tea Partiers elected by the American flag pants-wearing sign-mispellers that keep crashing conservative candidates' town hall meetings to ask whether Barack Obama is Satan, or just a Kenyan, and how, if elected, the candidate will help make sure Obama is deported to Hell. Or, as a spokesman from the Sunlight foundation put it,
Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right.
Translation: it's the Tea Party's fault. Apparently, since demonstrated verbal proficiency is a sign of being an elite snob with a New York City attitude and a San Francisco social agenda, politicians appealing to this country's far right shy away from complicated sentence structure — complicated sentence structure is for communists and homosexuals. The members of Congress with the lowest demonstrated verbal "grade level" were all Republican men, and all but two were in their first term office. The bottom five— John Mulvaney of South Carolina, Rob Woodall of Georgia, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, and Tim Griffin of Arkansas — are all freshmen who speak at an 8th grade level or less.
Analysts think that the drop in grade level isn't necessarily reflective of the intelligence of the lawmakers themselves, but rather of the changing nature of media. Rather than speaking to convince each other of their argument, floor speeches have become political theater made for YouTube clips to be posted on Facebook walls of the same morons who think that contraception coverage is the same thing as mandatory abortions.
Of course, the congressmen with the lowest scores are trying to spin this like it's a good thing. Rob Woodard of Georgia told NPR, "My mother will probably be embarrassed to hear this news, but I'm glad to know I'm not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated."
And with his use of the fancy word "obfuscating," Woodard just sealed his fate as a one-term Congressman.