Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No to Incumbents

I have started a new website called No To Incumbents. After listening to some of the proclamations coming out of Washington on illegal immigration and high gas prices, it is no longer a one issue problem. Congress has collectively lost it's mind. Republicans thought $100 check from the government was a good idea to combat higher gas prices and Democrats said that ILLEGAL immigrants were not criminals.

Good people whom I respect have told me that they can not vote for people in the opposition party, despite overwhelming disgust with their current representatives because the opposition is just on the wrong side of core issues. Their choice of voting for someone they disrespect and find personally offensive or voting for someone with opposing core beliefs leaves them holding their nose but voting for their incumbent. Or, as almost 60% of the population does in most elections, staying home. People would rather NOT vote than vote for the lesser of two evils, having gotten tired of the lesser evil.

This has had a perverse effect on our system. First, people of high caliber will not stand against an incumbent that can raise millions in support of their re-election. Second, challengers have to take increasingly shrill positions just to get some traction. Challengers that campaign on the basis that they hold the same core beliefs but would vote different on one or two issues leave voters saying, why bother changing? We end up with opposition candidates that look like the worst caricature an incumbent can dream up.

Those of us that want to vote out every incumbent must make the case that voting out the incumbent, voting for the challenger, is in the best interest of all of us.

So, how do we make the case? Parts of this country have re-elected someone caught on tape buying and using illegal drugs and others have voted for a dead man, who won. It is obvious that rational people are either not voting, or are acting very irrationally in the voting booth.

Can you accept the argument that having a challenger that is unacceptable win, encourages a stronger challenger the next time around? Can you accept the argument that any potential damage that might be done to your deeply held beliefs by a challenger while in elected office can be undone?

Even if you did, can you have sufficient faith that while you are voting out your party's incumbent in your district, your fellow citizens are voting out their party's incumbent in their district? Part of the problem is that while all 435 congressmen are standing for re-election and therefore we could have 435 freshmen congressmen, only 32 senators are standing for re-election...68 of them will be returning next year.

I don't think any argument we make will convince you. You have to make a choice. If you accept the premise that your single vote counts, they you must accept the premise that your one vote for a challenger, no matter how unpleasant the option, will help change our current dilemma.

Saying no to incumbents takes a commitment. A willingness to accept the consequences of wiping the slate clean. Someone once said that a democracy would degenerate into a welfare state as people voted for those that could be counted on to handout government favors and those paying for them became a minority. So it has become. Churchill said democracy was the worst form of government, except for all other forms. Corruption, even the most minor of infractions, is normal behavior by our elected officials. It is a learned survival trait. The longer in office, the more ingrained it becomes.

We need to hit the reset button.

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