Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nightmare on Capitol Hill

The incomparable Glenn Greenwald, who normally hangs out under his own blogger shingle, is filling in for a time as guest columnist for Tim Grieve at Salon's "War Room" (paid subscription or watch an ad for free access).

Yesterday, he ruminated over the Connecticut primary battle between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman, putting it all in exactly the right context, as it seems to us:
There are few positions that offer greater job security than being an incumbent member of the U.S. Congress. The reelection rate for incumbents in the House is now 98 percent, a figure that would create envy even among 1970s Politburo members. * * *

For some time now, this has been one of the greatest and most frustrating contradictions in our political system. Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with, even contemptuous of, Congress, yet they continue to reelect the same representatives over and over, making reelection effectively automatic.

It is not hyperbole to describe a [potential] Lieberman defeat as an earthquake for the political establishment -- which is why virtually all members of that establishment, from both political parties and from its pundit class, have been enthusiastically supporting Lieberman. * * *

The supremacy of incumbency has given birth to a more or less permanent Beltway class that views its power as an entitlement, something that its members have the divine right to possess until they choose to relinquish it. It is that aristocratic mindset that explains the bizarre sense of anger and offense triggered among the political and pundit classes -- and within Lieberman himself -- by Ned Lamont's aggressive primary challenge.

That's another reason why today's Connecticut primary is so important: it may (or may not) signal the maturing of the American electorate.

Until now, the only solution advanced to the power of incumbency is the absurd "term limits" idea -- the plaintive cry, "Stop me before I vote for you again".

Voters always have the inherent power to limit an incumbent's term of office. All they have to do is vote against the bad ones.

Why is that so hard for us to learn?

1 comment:

Jimmy G. Martin said...

You ask why "it's so hard to learn". Because the media makes us stupid. Even the political ads. Most of us do not have time to research voting records. We go by instinct and our instinct is to vote for names we recognize. Jeffrey Dahmer could win election if he was on the ballot in my state.