Tag Archives: incumbents

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.

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Making a Difference – A Very Small Difference

The House passed a budget enforcement resolution yesterday. It sets 2011’s discretionary spending $7 billion below what President Obama has requested.

Next year’s discretionary spending target is $1.12 trillion for next year. The $7 billion difference represents savings of 0.625 percent. Barely a rounding error. If total spending (including mandatory and defense spending) ends up at $3.5 trillion next year, the savings becomes 0.2 percent.

Of course, 2010 discretionary spending was $1.39 trillion. 2011 spending will very likely end up much closer to that than the targeted $1.12 trillion. The appropriations process is not kind to non-binding resolutions, however well-intentioned. Especially when the resolution “doesn’t detail how Congress should reach that [deficit reduction] goal.”

Congress lacks the will to cut $270 billion of spending. The interests benefitting from that spending will scream bloody murder the second their programs are put on the chopping block. In an election year when incumbents are more fearful than usual, no politician worth his salt wants to cause an uproar.

Congress need not worry too much, though. Even in anti-incumbent years, re-election are almost always above 90 percent. The vast majority of congressional turnover happens through retirement, running for other office, or death.

The pattern is holding this year, so far. The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato recently pointed out that 5 incumbents have lost their state primary elections this year, while 240 were re-nominated. That’s a 98 percent success rate. There will be a few more casualties, especially in the November general elections.

Most members are safe. They can, and should, rock the boat by cutting unnecessary spending. If anything, the most aggressive cutters might become folk heroes like Chris Christie in New Jersey. They just don’t have the guts.

I will be more than happy if Congress proves me wrong. We’ll find out over the next few months.

A Telling Headline

From The Hill: Vulnerable Democrats defend support for campaign finance legislation

Campaign finance regulations are an incumbent’s best friend. The incumbent already has name recognition, and a deep network of fundraising contacts. Heck, Congress’ franking privilege allows incumbents to send out de facto campaign messages for free. Challengers have none of those advantages.

It takes a lot of money to buy enough ads to get a challenger’s name recognition anywhere near the incumbent’s. Campaign finance regulations make it harder to raise that money, and harder to put up a fight against established officeholders. No wonder so many incumbents from both parties favor strict campaign finance regulations! It’s good for their job security.

Do Incumbents Deserve Reelection?

A stunning 8 percent of Americans believe members of Congress should be reelected, a staggering indictment of the legislative branch as Democrats prepare to defend their majority in the midterm elections.”

Not sure what those 8 percent are thinking. They probably aren’t.

Of course, talk is cheap. The very same people who so loudly disapprove of Congress have re-elected 94 percent of its incumbents the last two election cycles. The last time it was as low as 90 percent was 1992.

People do seem to want change. They just rarely vote for it.