Tag Archives: election

Mises on Political Parties

With a fiercely partisan election just over a month away, the concluding paragraph of Ludwig von Mises’ Liberalism is a refreshing rejection of party politics. Mises, of course, uses liberalism in the original sense of the word:

No sect and no political party has believed that it could afford to forgo advancing its cause by appealing to men’s senses. Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.

-Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradtion, p. 151.

Voting the Bums Back In

Many people think change is in the air. Voters are angry. And they want to throw the bums out. That’s the dominant narrative this election cycle. But at least during primary season, that narrative is fitting poorly with actual election results. Politico reports:

Six incumbents have lost this season: Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) and Parker Griffith (R-Ala.). Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, pointed out in Arena that factoring for those losses translated into a 98.3 percent win rate for incumbents so far in 2010.

That 98.3 percent win rate will drop on Election Day. But probably not by much. Not even if one or both chambers switch parties. In 2008, incumbents running for re-election had a 94.9 percent success rate. In 2006, when Congress changed parties, the re-election rate was still right around 94 percent. The last time re-election rates went as low as 90 percent was in 1992 — nearly two decades ago.

The sad truth is that incumbents are safe. It doesn’t matter that Congress’ approval ratings are in the low teens. Voters just aren’t going to throw out very many bums. Voters may despise Congress as an institution, but most people have positive opinions of their own representative.

That’s why the average tenure in the House is more than 14 years, or seven terms. And most turnover isn’t from losing elections. It’s from retirement or running for other office, or death; for many, politics is literally a lifelong career.

So expect a lot of familiar faces to be sworn in when the 112th Congress convenes in January, even if power changes hands.

Though I will, of course, be very happy if events prove me wrong.

Political Wisdom

“The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”

-Adlai Stevenson

Partisanship Pays

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled out “you lie!” at President Obama while he was presiding over a joint session of Congress. His outburst has been good for $2.7 million in campaign contributions over the last two months.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) raised $114,108 in one day after labeling the other team’s health care proposals as a way to “die quickly.”

Such hyper-partisanship is regrettable. But there is a reason politicians indulge in it — voters like it. Why else would it be so good for their campaign war chests?

Sometimes I think the saddest part of democracy is that the people get what they want.

2010 Election: Can Everyone Lose?

The House stimulus vote did not contain a single Republican “yes” vote. Andy Roth thinks that “Democrats now ‘own’ this massive spending bill.”

Maybe the public will see it that way. If they do, that would be a coup for Republicans, akin to the Clinton health care debacle in 1994. If they succeed in labeling Democrats as the bigger-spending party, they’ll probably gain seats in 2010.

All this political maneuvering got me thinking. The Republicans’ main selling point is that Democrats are unfit to govern. They’re right.

The Democrats’ main selling point is that Republicans are unfit to govern. They’re right, too.

Sometimes I think it’s a real shame that elections have to have a winner.