Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Blood, New Ideas, Maybe Some Progress

By: Annoyed With Things

Is it possible to be mildly happy and annoyed at the same time?  I think it is, and let me tell you how.  I am mildly happy Senator Dick Luger (R) was beaten so handily by Richard Mourdock (R) in the Indiana Senatorial Republican Primary.  Not because I have any particular issues with soon to be retired Sen. Luger, but rather because I don’t think our founding fathers expected our elected officials to hang around so long.  This would have been Luger’s seventh term – when is enough, enough?
The current system of power within Congress is based a bit on popularity (you do have to get voted into leadership positions) and a lot on seniority.  Committee Chairmanships, where the legislative agenda truly gets set, is based on party loyalty and seniority.  The two go hand in hand because over time, as you develop seniority, you will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate party loyalty with your voting record.  So everyone along the line from constituents, through the party machinery, to the incumbents themselves all seem to have a vested interest in building a Congressional brand.  For these very same reasons, it seems almost impossible to get a vote across party lines.  The result being that we the People get stuck with a self-supporting system biased towards incumbents party ideology rather than reasonable compromise and forward progress.  We all know it is incredibly hard to oust an incumbent who can keep their pants on or isn’t stuffing money in their bra.  (Google Diane Wilkerson if you don’t know what I’m talking about with the bra reference)

One of the best lines in the 2010 special Senatorial election in Massachusetts came from Scott Brown (R) when the Democratic candidates (and the moderator of a televised debate) referred to the open seat as the “Kennedy Seat” inferring it belonged to the Democratic majority in Massachusetts.  Brown shot back that it was the People’s seat and got a lot of coverage and I imagine a few votes that night.  My point being that career politicians become so entrenched in the system that they become nearly impossible to beat and even become part of the local lexicon.  If you say the words “Lion of the Senate” anywhere in New England, people will know you mean Ted Kennedy.  Look at Barney Frank, another long serving Democrat in Congress from Massachusetts.  He was voted into office in 1980 and hasn’t left since - shame on the electorate for not wanting new blood every once in a while and making it so hard for a challenger to win.
And before people smarmily point out the Scott Brown is a career politician, let me point out that he also served in the Army National Guard for over 30 years rising to the rank of Colonel – no easy task.  I was an active duty person, but I had plenty of Guard and Reserve friends who had to manage what were essentially two full time careers.  And if you don’t think serving in the National Guard or Reserve is like a full time job – go try it.  I’m sure there is a recruiting office near you.  Additionally, if you think Elizabeth Warren, Brown’s current Democrat challenger for the Kennedy Seat, is not an insider you are fooling yourself.  She is the worst kind of political insider, an academic political appointee (teaches at Harvard Law – not exactly free of the taint from the Democratic Party machine, Chairwoman of the TRAP panel, Special assistant to the President for creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).  You don’t get these level appointments by just being good, you also have to be in the game for a long time.

So my annoyance is that the system seems to be set up to resist the infusion of new people into national elected office.  I want concerned citizens, not career professional politicians representing my interests in Congress.  I want people who have done something other than politics to represent me.  I want someone who has run a business, served in the military or was outstanding in some other profession.  This is not just a Massachusetts issue.  Take a look at Nevada’s 1st Congressional District.  It is shaping up to be Dina Titus (D), a career politician with almost twenty years of national and state level political history; against Chris Edwards (R), a former Naval Officer, public administrator and homeland security consultant.  Now Ms. Titus has done many years of teaching at UNLV while she held state office in Nevada, but she taught American and Nevada government – not exactly a stretch for a career politician.  I know, I taught at the graduate level and I can tell you from firsthand experience it is not a huge lift to teach something you are already intimately familiar with.  
So the question is; if you had their resume without party affiliation, who would you be more likely to pick, someone inside the system or outside the system?  Give me the military person every time!
Editorial note:  I thought inserting this many references into the text would be disruptive.  All of my assertions about specific people are supported by the information on these pages.

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