The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work - and then they get elected and prove it. (P. J. O'Rourke)
In the face of abysmally low approval ratings for Congress and the Senate, it's discouraging to read how many incumbents are winning primary races and standing for re-election. Gerrymandering of their electoral districts means that most of them have little difficulty returning to office next year. Add to this the fact that they don't listen to us: it was reported earlier this week that "corporate interests and mega wealthy individuals control U.S. policy to such a degree that 'the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy'."
That being the case, let me repeat what I've said several times before about elections.
- In the (likely) event that your present Congressional representative has been in office for three terms or more, or your Senator has held office for two terms or more, vote for their opponent - irrespective of party, policy or anything else. That's the only way to stop the creeping crud of what Reed Galen called "Incumbent Entitlement Syndrome" - stop incumbents from getting too comfortable, to the point where they begin to take their electorate for granted. At least that'll make them actually work for re-election!
- Don't think that the political party to which a candidate belongs is all that important. I trust neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party to put the interests and needs of the nation ahead of their own partisan desires. (See P. J. O'Rourke's quote at the head of this article.) What matters is the candidate as an individual. Is he/she trustworthy, competent and morally sound? That combination's unlikely in a politician - as the great H. L. Mencken put it, "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar" - so if all your candidates are of questionable value, vote for the least objectionable among them.
- Don't trust a politician's promises. H. L. Mencken again: "If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner." That's about the size of it. Don't focus on what they say - focus on what they've done in the past. A solid, honest track record - preferably in a field or fields other than politics - is a far better indicator of a politician's worth than any number of promises. The fact that so few politicians have such track records is our great misfortune . . .
I'm hoping against hope that we might get some worthwhile fresh blood in Congress and the Senate this time round . . . but after so many disappointments in the past, I daresay I'll be let down yet again.