The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Trying To Help George Will Catch Up

Posted on | October 14, 2010 | 10 Comments

by Smitty

Another day, another George Will column that raises some great points without really seeming to grasp what’s afoot.

George F. Will Smitty
A historic shift in the making this election?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Voters seem to think Congress is like a weedy lot — that anything done to it will improve it — so they seem poised to produce something not seen since 1981-82. Then, for the first time since 1952, a majority of senators were in their first terms. This was the result of three consecutive churning elections — 1976, 1978 and 1980.

There certainly will be new senators from 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia. Furthermore, Alaska’s incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, whom the American Conservative Union ranks as the fourth-most liberal Senate Republican and who already has been rejected by Republicans in the primary, may lose her sore-loser write-in candidacy. Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is behind by 20 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is behind by an average of 6.7 points. And Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet of Colorado, appointed to the seat vacated when Ken Salazar became secretary of the interior, trails by a RealClearPolitics average of three points.

Congress, like any compost heap, merits regular turning. Re-election needs to be a less common outcome, and ‘political career’ an oxymoron. While we may not require explicit term limits, such should be enforced at the ballot box by an informed electorate, and the incentives to send the same boobs back, election after election, must be reduced.
So there could be at least 18 freshmen senators in January. And several other incumbents — all Democrats — could lose. Since popular election of senators became mandatory in 1913, the largest crop of freshmen, 20, resulted from the 1978 upheaval that presaged the 18 new senators produced by the 1980 election.
If senators in their first terms are a majority of the body in 2011, there might be an anomalous condition that would have perplexed and perhaps vexed the Founding Fathers: The average seniority of House members might be higher than the average seniority of senators.
What a specious comparison. The 17th Amendment altered the Congress from one body representing We The People, and another representing the States, to Little House and Big House. The Founding Fathers would have screamed at the 17th Amendment, and gone berserk at the accompanying 16th Amendment and Federal Reserve Act, which fell triptych laid the foundation for our current economic non-success.
The Senate, with indirect election of its members (by state legislatures) and six-year terms, was designed to be Congress’s more stable half. If there is a majority of first-term members in 2011, many new members will have won by expressing disgust with Washington’s mores. This will challenge even the formidable leadership skills of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. More stable half? How about the voice of the States as political entities in the Federal government, George? Or do you not think the short-cicuiting of the chain of command, which has resulted in 50 beggars supported by Federal alms, was a really lousy situation to create?
After November, Republican eyes will turn to the prize of the presidency in 2012. Concerning which, McConnell sees cautionary lessons from three other years — 1946, 1954 and 1994.
In 1946, President Truman’s party lost control of both the House and Senate. In 1948, however, Truman won an improbable reelection running against the “do-nothing 80th Congress.” In 1954, President Eisenhower’s party lost control of the House and Senate. But two years later, Eisenhower was resoundingly reelected. In 1994, President Clinton’s party lost control of the House and Senate. In 1996, Clinton cruised to reelection, partly because of reckless behavior — e.g., the government shutdown of 1995 — by congressional Republicans.
Every one of these situations you cite results in greater Federal power. Without getting all tinfoil hat, is it possible that there is a pattern of de facto collapse from 50 to 1 State to be discovered in all this?
Regarding House races, Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard notes that the Democratic Party has “an inefficiently distributed base of voters.” It “consists mostly of union workers, upscale urban liberals, and minority voters, many of whom are clustered in highly Democratic districts.” In many other districts, Democratic candidates depend on “independents and soft partisans,” the very voters who have defected from the Obama coalition of 2008.
If Democrats lose control of the House by a small number of seats, this might be condign punishment for a practice they favor and that Republicans have cynically encouraged — racial gerrymandering. It concentrates African American voters in majority-minority districts to guarantee the election of minority candidates.
It’s the Information Age. We need to systematically attack the structural members of incumbency. For, say, a $10k prize, how about a map algorithm that takes various parameters; population, economy, voting district area, &c, and seeks to rationalize the absurd districting? With such an open algorithm, the battle would move to ensuring the input parameters were reasonably acquired and weighted. We need to observe every behavior undertaken by the thieves who’ve broken this country and set about methodically demolishing those habits, with an eye to lowering the frequency of incumbency.
On Nov. 2, there will be 37 gubernatorial elections. On Wednesday, Nov. 3, when the 15-month dash to the Iowa caucuses begins, Republicans may be savoring gains of eight or more governors, to a total of at least 31. They also may have gained 500 seats in state legislatures, mostly by retaking seats lost in the last two elections. This would expand Republican power over the redistricting that will be based on the 2010 census. Polidata Inc. estimates that states carried in 2008 by John McCain will gain a net of seven seats (and electoral votes) and that states Barack Obama carried will lose seven. What can those governors do to restrain Federal overreach? The money that funds the country should come up from the States, and not trickle down from Washington, DC. Or do you not see the current cart/horse inversion as much of a problem, George?
Finally, Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, reports that this year, for the first time since 1930, more Republicans — nearly 4 million more — than Democrats voted in midterm primaries. This “enthusiasm gap” favoring Republicans may close somewhat by Nov. 2, but that may be too late for many Democratic candidates:

Voting began in seven states in September. By Nov. 2, almost 40 percent of all ballots will have been cast.

Hey, that’s great, George. If this was more than a WaPo column, it would have been cool to see some sage advice. How do we re-establish the idea that peacetime deficit spending is immoral. The national debt: do we just punt? How about unsustainable entitlements? Is incumbency an issue? I realize that you’re one of the Really Smart People, but we need you to do more than just describe things here. Could you, I dunno, do more than write off energetic, charismatic leadership like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell? I mean, it’s sort of whacky, but most of the leaders you mention positively seem to be of the same stripe that have helped create the Progressive mess we currently enjoy.
Thanks, George.


10 Responses to “Trying To Help George Will Catch Up”

  1. bastiches
    October 15th, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

    So did Coca-cola.

    I truly don’t understand this tilt at the 17th Amendment windmill. Concentration of power necessarily generates corruption. This is a law of the universe and it is absolute. By taking the franchise away from citizens and giving it to a bunch of politicians, you create the conditions to make Tammany Hall look like an ice cream social.

    Why not just give appoint a panel of philosophers to elect all officials for the House as well? Let’s have a few local judges elect state reps while we’re at it!

    I try to be polite when this cracker-barrel argument comes up on the rightie blogs but I cannot make sense of it. It defies common and conservative sense in every way, so much so that I’m convinced that there some hidden text or book that I’ve not seen that would illuminate all.