Tag Archives: 2010 election

An Optimistic Take on the Election

CEI President and Founder Fred Smith and I have an article in The Daily Caller expressing cautious optimism about yesterday’s election results. Our main points:

-We are (cautiously) optimistic because voters turned out in droves to make a statement against big government, not to endorse GOP policies. But no reforms will happen unless people keep fighting for them.

-Activists have a lesson to learn from the Bush-era anti-war movement. Anti-Iraq War protestors vanished into thin air almost the moment President Obama was elected. They gave up. That’s one reason there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq and America’s presence in Afghanistan has doubled. The next few years will be the true test of the tea party movement. Will it grow complacent in victory?

-GOP politicians have a lesson to learn from their 1994 victory and subsequent fall from grace. The 1994 Republicans gave up as reformers after about six months. Voters kept them around because they did a tolerable job of checking Clintonian excesses. But six years of one-party rule under Bush were more than enough to show that Republicans were far more concerned with staying in power than with shrinking government. Federal spending roughly doubled under Bush, and that was enough to give them the boot.

It will be interesting to see what happens. The 2010 election might be nothing more than a blip on the radar. Or it could be the start of a genuine reform movement that will take on the coming entitlement crisis. We’re hoping for the latter.

Alan Grayson, We Hardly Knew Ye

Most incumbents running for re-election deserve defeat. That more than 50 of them lost last night is an unabashed good. But one of those defeated incumbents, Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, I will miss.

This is not because he is a serious voice on policy; he isn’t. Rep. Grayson is a walking, talking reminder that Congress is not to be taken seriously, whatever lofty airs its members may exude. Washington could use more like him. Some of his career highlights:

-He blamed his defeat on the weather.

-Grayson characterized the GOP’s health care plan as “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”

-He used the word “Holocaust” to describe the current health care system. The Holocaust was an attempt to systematically murder all Jews.

-He referred to attendees of Glenn Beck’s political rally as “people who were wearing sheets over their heads 25 years ago.” Not as Halloween costumes, one presumes.

-He ran a political ad featuring audio of his opponent, Daniel Webster, quoting a Bible verse imploring women to submit to their husbands. The problem is that Grayson’s ad left out the part immediately after that where Webster told his audience to reject that advice, and take a more modern approach to marital relations.

-The same ad referred to Webster as “Taliban Dan.” The Taliban is a radical Muslim group that embraces sharia law, shelters terrorists, and throws acid in women’s faces for going to school.

-Grayson ran another ad calling Webster a draft-dodger. Webster received a student deferment, then was declared medically unfit to serve.

And so on. One expects politicians to be dishonest; one does not expect them to be so blatant about it as Grayson is. He was a breath of fresh air compared to the stale stuff pouring from most of his colleagues.

Why I Didn’t Vote This Year

Over at The Daily Caller, I tally up the arguments for and against voting. This year, the minuses outweighed the plusses — at least for me. But different people will come to different conclusions, and that’s fine. Consider this a list of arguments to consider, and an invitation to think for yourself.

I’m rather sick of moralizing do-gooders preaching that voting is your civic duty. “If you forfeit your right to vote, you forfeit your right to complain,” they say. Hogwash. Tell that to blacks before the 15th Amendment and women before the 19th Amendment and see where that gets you.

My main points:

-The mathematics come out against voting. Average turnout in my Congressional district is about 200,000 voters. I have one vote.

-Expressive voting, however, is perfectly legitimate. People place a high value participating in democracy. They value having their say. Exercising their rights. Those are wonderful reasons in favor of taking the time to vote.

-But voting takes time. The time I spend voting is time I can’t spend on activities that have more impact, such as writing articles for publication. I do, after all, make a living expressing my opinions on policy issues.

-To vote or not is a personal decision with no right or wrong answer. Think it through. Do what’s right for you. And don’t look down on people who decide differently than you do.

The Rise of Negative Campaigning?

A lot of people think this year’s election is historically nasty. Then again, people said much the same thing in 2008. And in 2006. And in 2004, 2002… every year, actually.

Pundit hyperbole is nothing new. Neither are attack ads. Negative campaigning is at least as old as the campaign itself. Politics is an inherently nasty business. The pursuit of public office causes people to do and say things they would never dream of if they didn’t have that signature powerlust that separates politicians from decent human beings.

This short video from Reason.tv shows some highlights from the not-so-friendly 1800 presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. I think the glowing red eyes are my favorite part.

2010’s Record Election Spending Is Surprisingly Small

The Washington Post has a breathless write-up of this year’s midterm election spending:

In the latest sign of this year’s record-breaking election season, an independent research group estimated Wednesday that candidates, parties and outside interest groups together could spend up to $4 billion on the campaign.

$4 billion is a lot of money. The Post’s opinion staff writer thinks that’s frightening. $4 billion, of course, comes to $12.90 per person in a nation of 310 million people. So maybe not.

A bit more context: federal spending costs $11,290.32 per person. Regulation costs another $5,645.16 per person. That’s a total burden of $16,935.48 per person. American democracy is a very expensive form of government with surprisingly inexpensive elections.

Spending $12.90 to influence $3.5 trillion in spending and another $1.75 trillion in regulating seems like too little election spending, not too much. Total election spending is about the same as it was in 2000, when the federal budget was under $2 trillion.

Still, for a midterm, this year’s election spending is historically high. And a lot of people think there is too much money in politics. Fortunately, there is a surefire way for them to fix the problem: get politics out of our money.

Republicans and Democrats alike have made it clear that they have little interest in fundamental economic reform. So maybe the Post is right that they aren’t worth spending $12.90 on.

Unfortunately, as long as the Bush-Obama spending and regulating binge continues, people will be spending a lot more than $12.90 to get a piece of the action.

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.