Carl Hiaasen: What's worse than fungus? Read on

October 22, 2013 

After 16 wasted days and billions of dollars in economic damage, the Republicans finally folded their tattered circus tent and voted to re-open our government last week.

Moderates in the party lamented that the ending was predictable, the political wreckage immeasurable and absolutely nothing was gained by the shutdown. National polls showed approval ratings for Congress ranging from only 8 to 10 percent.

From Oct. 4-6, Public Policy Polling surveyed 502 registered voters, Democrats, Republicans and independents. Disgust and revulsion prevailed across the board.

Toenail fungus, hemorrhoids, cockroaches and dog poop all scored higher in popularity than Congress. Miley Cyrus, Honey Boo Boo and Vladimir Putin scored lower.

Undeterred by their dismal standing with the public, 18 senators and 144 House members -- all Republicans -- still voted against ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling to prevent a catastrophic default.

The losing contingent included Sen. Marco Rubio, who has cemented his status as a prancing lapdog for the "tea party" crazies. He is cleverly positioning himself to fill the intellectual void left by Michelle Bachmann, who's retiring from the House.

GOP strategists would be wise to dissect the poll results that gave such a decisive edge to common toenail-fungus, also known as onychomycosis.

According to Public Policy's website, 44 percent of respondents had a more favorable view of the unsightly infection than of Congress, 41 percent said Congress wasn't as awful and 15 percent were undecided.

Voters older than 65 favored toenail fungus by a solid margin of 45 to 39 percent, while voters 18 to 29 were evenly split, so to speak.

Interestingly, those 30 to 45 years old had a higher opinion of Congress than of onychomycosis. Possibly this is because they're just reaching the age when foot hygiene seems more important.

The same poll showed that 53 percent of those surveyed held hemorrhoids in higher esteem than Congress, although there was a partisan gap.

Democrats and independents overwhelmingly said Congress was worse than hemorrhoids, while GOP voters gave Congress a slight edge.

On a somewhat positive note, Congress fared slightly better in the poll when compared with cockroaches, although the hardy insects were still more popular by a 44-42 percent spread.

By contrast, generic dog doo beat out the politicians by a whopping 47 to 40 percent.

About 13 percent of those polled were undecided, which probably means they're cat owners.

Despite such rancid numbers, a cluster of Toe Fungus Republicans in the Florida delegation voted to continue the government shutdown and initiate a national default.

You'll want to hang on to this list, in case any of these geniuses ever decide to run for statewide office:

Jeff Miller, a real-estate agent in Chumuckla; Steve Southerland from Panama City; Ron DeSantis from Ponte Vedra Beach; Dennis Ross, a Lakeland lawyer; and Ted Yoho, a Gainesville large-animal veterinarian and tea party tool who has been in Washington 10 whole months.

Then there's John Mica from Winter Park; Bill Posey, an anti-Obama birther from Rockledge; Tom Rooney, from Tequesta; Richard Nugent, a former sheriff of Hernando County; and Trey Radel, an ex-TV reporter and improv comedian from Fort Myers.

At least Radel admits to being a comedian. The others have no excuse.

Here as is true around the country, many of the Toe Fungus Republicans hail from conservative, skillfully gerrymandered districts, and they have little risk of losing their seats in next year's mid-term elections.

The biggest casualty of the shutdown is the national GOP, its hopes for recapturing the White House poleaxed once again by the party's radical right wing.

Already a few tea party action groups have threatened retribution against Republican lawmakers who put the country first and voted to stop the madness.

If GOP leaders are looking for a bright side to the Public Policy survey, here's one: Congress scored much higher with people than Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic representative from New York, failed mayoral candidate and serial sexter.

Also, the Ebola virus is still more unpopular than members of Congress. So is Lindsey Lohan, Charlie Manson and heroin.

So they've got that going for them.

Carl Hiaasen, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172.

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