Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


Out with the old

Q: What's a politician to do? Voters rejected the incumbents in this week's primaries in Pennsylvania and Kentucky (and Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces a runoff), shirking experience for new faces. What is so attractive about upstarts? In your experience, are you more likely to achieve success as a wise insider or a brash outsider?

I am not sure that most upstarts necessarily have either ideas or personality attributes that make them more desirable candidates than the incumbents.

In this election cycle, the motivating factor for many voters is that one of the candidates is not an incumbent. A most instructive example occurred in Utah, where a stalwart Republican conservative, Sen. Bob Bennett, lost in the primary. He was an incumbent with a real live voting record to hang out as dirty laundry. He voted for TARP and that was too much for the conservatives in Utah. As an incumbent, he was also part of the "Huge Federal Government That Is Bad For America."

A substantial part of the voting public thinks we are heading toward national bankruptcy, a la Greece. Growing federal deficits provide little comfort. Some look at America and argue that we are heading toward socialism, with cradle-to-grave care overseen by federal bureaucrats making important decisions for us, akin to the movie "1984."

Some voters are uncomfortable with 10 million-plus illegal immigrants here and a generally unsecured border allowing millions more to illegally cross the border and begin " the path to citizenship."

There are a lot of issues bothering people. Employment issues are high on the list. The war in Afghanistan barely registers with people unless they are actually dodging bullets in the combat zone.

The wiser candidates have taken in the prevailing mood. They are running against Washington D.C. and against a Congress viewed by much of the public as dysfunctional. Candidates who have never been in Congress -- like Rand Paul -- are doing much better than those who have voting records to criticize.

Arkansas Sen. Lincoln is in a tight runoff because she abandoned the public option in the health care legislation, as did President Obama, which was favored by liberals and organized labor in her state. In August we shall see if Sen. McCain survives the Republican primary. He has many, many votes to defend.

The political winds are changing the general direction of the nation, for a while, at least. The folks at Tea Party rallies -- looked down upon and scoffed at by many who, in their arrogance, do not comprehend the implications of the movement -- represent people who, in the words made famous in our last election, are seeking "change you can believe in." Some change left in one's pockets after paying for the deficit is part of the change being sought.

Yet the message by the voters, who have not all been attending these rallies, has brought about some quantifiable results, illustrated by candidate Mark Rubio. He forced Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party in the race for the U.S. Senate in Florida. There is a general sense of floating anger and a verifiable anti-incumbent mood. This is a great time to be an upstart politician calling for "change" and railing against the federal government in Washington.

Mid-term elections are when the party in power generally loses some seats or a house or two in Congress. There have yet to be any indications that this November will be an exception. There are some exciting races for November. The public will have an opportunity to listen to debates and the greatest spectacle of all - election-night coverage by the dueling TV networks!

By Jan Scruggs  |  May 23, 2010; 11:24 PM ET  | Category:  Experience vs. hunger Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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