Days of Change

Incentive | June 11, 2014

Every elected official at one time or another has wanted desperately to get into or stay in office. The vast majority continue to feel that way until the day they have to quit. A few leave voluntarily, aside from those who simply stop running because they know victory is unlikely. Technically, they need the most votes to stay in office. The way they get those votes can become a problem.

In the Tea Party election of 2010, about 6 Republicans won Democratic Senate seats, 60 won Democratic House seats and over 600 won various seats in state government. The Tea Party had some money, but they also had motivated constituents and enough candidates to challenge almost any Democrat held seat in government. They decided that the Democrats were uninterested, but the Republicans were willing to listen. Then they didn’t.

This is my obligatory Eric Cantor post, but it’s not anything different from what I’ve been writing about for at least 3 years. The Cantor race was surprisingly below the RADAR, however. He was spending $5 million on a primary, had a last-minute challenger and was overshadowed almost completely by John Boehner’s rancorous leadership.

If you want a precedent, I would cite Mike Lee’s win over Bob Bennett at a Republican state convention in Utah. Like Utah, VA-07 is very conservative, so the real competition is between Republicans. I would caution that one upset does not indicate a wave. It is merely a sign that conservatives are less interested in incumbency than ever and victory is not a foregone conclusion.

The bigger problem is that while politicians need to get the most votes to win, they rely more on money to leverage opinion than ever. Boehner, Cantor and other prominent Republicans are trying to moderate the caucus. Part of it is supporting immigration reform to get it off the table and have access to a growing Hispanic population everyone assumes wants illegal immigration. Most of it, I suspect, is to not scare away corporate money. That kind of big money doesn’t want the sudden disruption caused by a budget fight. They would prefer the slow death of the United States under incremental socialism. Money equals ads which equals votes, so money talks.

What the Virginia race says is that there are voters who will actually vote against the activities designed to get more voters. It is a way to fight the perverse incentive of politicians getting money from special interests who then get money from the taxpayers. We’re paying either way. We might as well vote for what we want.


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