There is a palpable feeling of “throw the bums out” regarding the upcoming election cycle. This is not entirely unexpected, as mid-term elections are normally favorable to the party out of power. That’s how the thinking goes, at least. But that’s only if you view it from a strictly Republican vs. Democratic perspective. I believe, however, that while this is a true statement from a narrow bipartisan view, it is not the same as a true “throw the bums out” mentality. To really upset the politically entrenched would mean upsetting all incumbents, regardless of party affiliation. This would finally signify an election favorable to the one party truly out of power….”We the People”.
“We the People” are the ones on the outside. The parties know this and don’t really care, unless saying so would help their cause. As I began to contemplate this I thought about how over a barrel we are. Here in North Carolina the big race will be for the Senate seat of Richard Burr. Burr is a Republican and running unopposed for the nomination of his party. Burr has been in Washington since 1994, though he has only served one term as Senator. At the present time there are at least three Democrats running for the office. They are led by Cal Cunningham, a lawyer and veteran of the war in Iraq. Although early in the campaign and he has focused his energy on Senator Burr, he is still facing significant challenges from two other “outside the beltway” candidates Elaine Marshal and Ken Lewis.
So, if we in North Carolina want to vote for a change in the way things are going in Washington, we have to decide between a guy from the minority party but inside the system or a person outside system but inside the majority party. Not exactly a simple choice. The parties themselves want to keep us thinking along the lines of partisanship. The talking heads and party elites of both sides like to keep things basic: “Vote for Burr to stop the evil Obamacare!” Or “Vote for Cunningham/Marshal/Lewis to show those evil Republicans that you support everything Obama stands for!”
It shouldn’t be, and it fact it isn’t that simple. What do we really know about these people? Are we really going to let our votes be decided strictly on party affiliation? Doing so is rarely a vote to overturn the status quo. Both parties are interested in either holding onto or regaining power.
So this is where we end up. No other Republicans want to challenge Burr. Yet three people feel they deserve the Democratic nomination. In a few years Kay Hagan, our sitting Democrat Senator, will be up for reelection. Will it play out the same? Will there still be no Republican candidate that feels they have services to offer their country? Will there still be a deep field of Democrats throwing their hats in the ring to challenge Senator Hagan…….or will the results be exactly the opposite? My guess is the latter. I think we will see a big Republican field and nominal, if any, Democratic challenges.
So in 2014 when the Republicans all line up to challenge Hagan’s seat and position themselves as “outsiders”, I hope they are asked where they were in 2010. And when Hagan runs unopposed, I hope the Democrat’s that don’t get nominated or elected this year are asked about their reluctance to run again.
In the end the parties don’t want their incumbent to face challenges because it isn’t good for the party. Long serving politicians are good for the party, they hold lots of power, they get big committee assignments and they can help raise a lot of money. No doubt about it they are good for the party, just not the party that is really out of power…”We the People”.
So as the election season heats up, there are a few things we can do. One is pay attention to the primary races. Primaries are the few times you can look at a candidate relatively unfiltered by their party. Unfortunately, though, their main mission in a primary is to play the party base. So we need to ask these candidates to explain how they are not, in fact, already in the bag for the party leadership. If more moderates got involved in the primary season, perhaps things would begin to change.
Finally, we must all admit that voting fora Republican or Democrat does not in itself mean a vote for or against the status quo. Power in Washington is dug in deeper than that.