The New ‘Taint of Incumbency’

By
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 6:00 am
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)

In the wake of Scott Brown’s astonishing Senate win in Massachusetts last week, GOP leaders took no time to spin the outcome as an indictment of Democratic leadership that can only help Republicans in November’s mid-term elections.

[Congress1]“There’s not a seat in America held by a Democrat that can’t be won,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told “Fox and Friends” Monday. “Massachusetts proves that. When Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, any seat’s in play.”

But while Republicans are hoping Brown’s victory foreshadows a GOP landslide, a number of political experts are warning that the country’s restless anxiety — as evidenced not only in Massachusetts, but in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Florida as well — is less a backlash against Democrats in particular than a rebuke of the business-as-usual politics of Capitol Hill in general. Even as unemployment soared and housing markets tanked, voters have watched lawmakers bicker endlessly over a stimulus bill that proved too small and a health reform proposal that remains unfinished. Meanwhile, the banks have bounced back on the wings of a taxpayer bailout, paying out billions of dollars in employee bonuses this month while the jobs crisis outside Wall Street only worsens. In such an environment, some experts caution, incumbents on both sides of the aisle could find themselves surprisingly vulnerable in November.

“The public is mad, and they’re prepared to take it out on the establishment,” said Tony Coelho, the former California congressman who served as campaign chairman for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run. “That doesn’t just mean the party in power. That means everyone.”

David P. Redlawsk, a political scientist at Rutgers University and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, agreed. “The stock market has gone up, but that’s Wall Street, and many voters do not see how that benefits them,” Redlawsk wrote in an email. “There is real risk to incumbents on both sides of the aisle.”

Redlawsk said that the Democrats, because they control both Congress and the White House, have absorbed the brunt of the nation’s discontent. But for Republicans to interpret that as partisan anger, he added, would be a mistake.

“This is not a partisan backlash by voters as much as it is a backlash against the powers that be — who happen to be Democrats,” he wrote.

The evidence of voter discontent has been everywhere in recent months. An early signal came in Virginia and New Jersey last November, when the incumbent Democrats were swept out of the governor’s office by Republican challengers who wouldn’t have stood a chance a year earlier. More recently, the virtually unknown Brown overcame a 30-point deficit to steal the Senate seat vacated by the late Edward Kennedy in the liberal bastion of Massachusetts.

“The message coming out of the Massachusetts special election is clear: No Democrat is safe,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “In the aftermath of Scott Brown’s victory this past week, it has become evident to Democrats that to run for reelection in this toxic political environment is to ensure defeat at the ballot box in November.”

Yet recent polls indicate that the voters aren’t exactly thrilled with Republicans either. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted earlier this month, for example, just 24 percent of respondents said they have either a “great deal” or “good amount” of confidence in Republicans to lead the country – down from 29 percent a year earlier. For Democrats, the number was 32 percent, down from 43 percent in January 2009.

Another survey, conducted this month by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, tells a similar story, revealing that just 30 percent of respondents have a positive feeling about the GOP, while 42 percent view the party negatively.

The message hasn’t been lost on some Republicans. Indeed, Brown packaged himself more as an independent outsider than a man of the Republican Party — a bow to the anti-establishment tea-party movement that mobilized so ardently behind him. Republican consultant Brad Todd told CQ recently that the mid-term elections will be governed by a “taint of incumbency.” Even Boehner conceded this week that voters “don’t trust either party.”

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) might have summed it up best. “The American people have fallen out of love with the current direction, but they haven’t fallen in love with Republicans,” he said last week.

“It’s a pox on both your houses,” Coelho said of the country’s mood toward Democrats and Republicans alike. “That’s why the teabaggers have a voice. They’re saying, ‘The hell with both of you.’”

Supporting that theory, new polls Tuesday revealed that Marco Rubio, the upstart Republican contender fighting for Florida’s Senate seat, is leading GOP Gov. Charlie Crist by three points. The party scheme is different, but Rubio’s anti-establishment theme mirrors that of Brown’s message to Massachusetts voters.

“There is a deep and increasingly restive anger stirring in the country,” L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten wrote last week. “Its focal points at the moment may seem to be healthcare and ‘big government,’ but if there were a Republican in the White House, they might just as well be tax cuts and ‘limited government.’ The fact is that the president and both parties’ congressional delegations have approval ratings under 50 percent.”

The Massachusetts shakeup means that Democrats are without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and that has left party leaders scrambling to prevent a catastrophe in November. “Every state is now in play, absolutely,”‘ Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said last week. “You have to make the case that you’re the one that’s on the people’s side. And people have to get it.”‘

With that in mind, President Obama will address Congress tonight in hopes of relaying the thought that he feels the country’s pain. The real audience, though, will be an American people grown frustrated with lawmakers’ partisan hostility, and skeptical of their capacity to lead in times of duress. For Obama, Coelho said, it’s also an opportunity to reframe his approach to governing, recognizing that the 2008 elections were a cry from voters for real change in Washington.

“It was a revolt against the system,” Coelho said of those elections. “Obama interpreted that to be a victory for his policies. But what it was was a frustration with the system not working.

“His political operatives needed to read the tea leaves,” he added. “And they failed.”

Comments

25 Comments

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Pingback posted January 27, 2010 @ 6:16 am

[...] The New Taint of Incumbency « The Washington Independent [...]


fly1
Comment posted January 27, 2010 @ 9:18 am

None of them are safe-especially the obstructionists (GOP). A viral purge is wanted and needed!


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Pingback posted January 27, 2010 @ 9:24 am

[...] The New Taint of Incumbency « The Washington Independent [...]


patriotsoul
Comment posted January 27, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

Damned right! How dare the Republicans claim this as a victory for themselves. The arrogance is not acceptable!. There is so much more than economics in play here. Economics are just a symptom and tool of the tyrants. Massachusetts has to do with every damned detail of the Federal and States' Government and how our country has been manipulated for many,many years. The winner of that race is under close daily scrutiny, no matter what title he takes, as a representative of the people. He is replaceable, along with the rest.
Make no mistake. We, the people are taking our country back.


chrisjay
Comment posted January 27, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

Today the results of the special election in my state, Oregon, have been announced:
The populists here have spoken loud and clear and the message is PROGRESSIVE. We have voted 'yes' on higher corporate taxes, as well as higher taxes for housholds making more than 250,000/yr.
Genuine populism does not bow before corporatism, it confronts it head on—a lesson the voters of Mass could learn from us


Is The GOP Now Misreading The Public? | BlogHalt.com (Pre-Launch)
Pingback posted January 27, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

[...] Lillis reports: While Republicans are hoping Brown’s victory foreshadows a GOP landslide, a number of political [...]


Pre-SOTU thoughts » Thom Lynch Blog
Pingback posted January 27, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

[...] to the contrary. And there is some evidence that the GOP is misreading the public in this way again. Mike Lillis via Andrew Sullivan: But while Republicans are hoping Brown’s victory foreshadows a GOP landslide, a number of [...]


Venerability
Comment posted January 27, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

Your readers may be interested in our new Centrists Group at Linked In, which is about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and in my brand-new Centrists-oriented series, The Rest of U.S.

Centrists – Who We Are and What We Stand For

Extremists have become so loud, they’re deafening. And because they shout in perfect sound bites, the media birddog their every rant, however irresponsible or outrageous.

But we believe the political tide’s about to turn with a vengeance. No matter their party affiliation or lack thereof, Americans are disgusted with those who harass to harass, obstruct to obstruct, tear down to tear down. Compromise, consensus, bridge-building, and respect for differing viewpoints have been the hallmarks of American life as long as there’s been an America. We’re certain they will be again.

Please read: The Rest of U.S. – Who We Are and What We Stand For

http://newcentristera.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/…

If you like it, please circulate to your family, friends, and colleagues. Or perhaps to your favorite extremist!


Mark-John
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 7:59 am

There is ABSOLUTELY an anger and a distrust toward Washington, in general; hence, Obama is POTUS.

The “republicans” have received a wake-up call every bit as much as have the Dem…and they had BETTER heed the message. That WAS the genesis of the “Tea Party,” further proof that this is a Right-Center-Right Country.

Don't let EITHER “party” convince you otherwise.


Mark-John
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 8:20 am

Ellen-

An admirable, but irresponsible and Utopian position. Agreement and flexibility are fine in the “macro,” but totally ineffective in the “micro.” Issue's, in order to be resolved, must be resolved by actually TAKING A POSITION, and then fighting for that position, by laying out your beliefs and the reasoning that assisted you in ARRIVING at that desired outcome. Which is why, as I had expected, your description of “what you STAND for” said NOTHING about what you stand for.

Hardly a recipe for accomplishing anything.


uberVU - social comments
Trackback posted January 28, 2010 @ 10:29 am

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by TWI_news: The New Taint of Incumbency http://bit.ly/bjwknx...


Chedar
Comment posted January 29, 2010 @ 1:35 am

If these creep in capital hill does not change their bickeing, we will vote the incumbent out regardless whether they are republican or democrat. Mark our words as voters of america. It's time to see a bipartisanship rather than watching these idiots fighting like little kids. They forgot they work for us the people of america.


trippin
Comment posted January 29, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

Confucius say: “She who rides high horse gets hit by low branch.”

What's a centrist? I happen to believe that it is most certainly NOT the geometric center of an imaginary line drawn between Stalin and Hitler. Rather, to me, it is the will of the majority of the people.

So, the majority of the people in every poll I've seen support a public option for health care, which practically speaking can be as simple as a Medicare buy-in. Do your self-identified centrists support that? If not, you aren't centrists at all, rather, just a gaggle of right wingers trying to play the refs.

In case you haven't noticed, our nation has been taken over by corporate money. This is no time for Casper Milquetoast.

Further, since the right has never — ever — in the history of this republic supported a thing that helped the working class in this country, I see no need to cede more power to them than their high-dollar buddies and the co-conspiratorial Supreme Court have already conferred on them. Read the record: Social Security, Medicare, school lunch programs, food stamps — they oppose ALL of it. There is no centrist position where people starve only halfway. It's been nothing but dragging them kicking and screaming every knuckle-dragging step of the way.

No, madam, this is war. They whine about “class warfare” as the very ones waging it. They complain about a government takeover of the private sector while they facilitate the private sector takeover of government. They lie, they cheat, they misinform with malice aforethought.

No madam, I will not — EVER — cede one inch in the interest of some kumbaya nonsense.

It is precisely Obama's kumbaya streak that decimated health reform, keeps Gitmo open, keeps us spying on our own citizens, keeps us bleeding money in wars of folly for natural resources — it is precisely reaching out and trying to build bridges with people who spit on us in return that has this country in a mess.


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Comment posted February 2, 2010 @ 2:34 am

The “republicans” have received a wake-up call every bit as much as have the Dem…and they had BETTER heed the message. That WAS the genesis of the “Tea Party,” further proof that this is a Right-Center-Right Country.

Don't let EITHER “party” convince you otherwise.


arjayt
Comment posted February 2, 2010 @ 8:09 am

Washington Independent: “It was a revolt against the system,” Coelho said of those elections. “Obama interpreted that to be a victory for his policies. But what it was was a frustration with the system not working.

Healthcare was (and is, since the problem won't go away) a nearly perfect example of government dysfunction in which the left/right/left gridlock system was in action. Many programs start as well-meaning attempts to solve some problem and over time fall victim to ‘amendmentitus’ as later left and right Electeds try to fit their ideologies into an existing program. The Electeds then spend all their time blocking the amendmentitus of the other party and create accumulating chaos.

Well-meaning programs grow into monsters as Medicare- to-Medicaid and Social Security-to-Supplemental Security Income did. The original intent of Social Security was to prevent people from starving during the widespread unemployment of the Depression. While some ‘earmarks’ that were incorporated into the later SS amendments were of questionable constitutionality, the program itself fell within the General Welfare, Tranquility and Justice covenants of the constitution but not Liberty since it imposed a universal tax on working people. Liberty, of course, involves not having personal wealth seized arbitrarily through taxation but taxes have to be balanced against an investment in the other five covenants. Only extreme libertarians disavow such a citizen responsibility and that may be the reason for their continual attempt to cause gridlock in the government .

But the problem over the last 40 years actually IS the left/right/left gridlock of the congress to the point that Wall Street, K Street , and Rodeo Drive can divert major tax revenues into economies to nowhere, ‘health care’ being the latest example. Except for the Libertarian/Progressive agenda gridlock, the nation’s Independent majority might have been able to create a standardized health data system over the last 20 years AS AN INCREMENTAL PROCESS because the technology was changing so fast that the standardization couldn’t even have been considered before then but now could save the American society something like $60 billion a year in ineffective medical process costs.

The bottom line on health care is that virtually ALL of the processes need to be treated as incremental because they are changing so rapidly, but it takes a national commitment of not just the Independent majority, who just might not understand what genetic health security would do for them or their children, but also a commitment of Libertarian/Progressive minorities to the General Welfare and Justice covenants for a national building block system for health care, preferably without destroying the Liberty covenant with revenue waste and taxation. That would mean that a wellness concept exists to the point that the Congress and Executive don’t try to swim upstream in a whirlpool for the next 30 years, a gridlock that might cost Independents 20 trillion dollars in waste. In terms of incremental wellness, responsible conservatives need to give up the ‘no, no, no’ mentality as much as responsible liberals need to give up the ‘endless money’ mentality. There is no reason incremental wellness improvements can’t happen as long as the gridlock mechanisms cease to exist.

Perhaps a 'bare bones’ system might address ONLY an expansion of the health care system infrastructure, partly now in all congressional bills. Another bare bones process would be to make the physical environments of health care (not the whole world) more cost effective, already in some bills. A third process of ‘bare bones’ involves a universal health data system and network that affects virtually all of the listed items and is already funded in the ‘stimulus’ appropriation but is poorly organized. A bare bones system is an Independent’s litmus test of the congressional awareness of the catastrophe involved in costs going from a current $7,000 per person per year to $11,500 per person by 2016. A simple up/down vote by congressmen on such a system would show if each Member knew what 'progress’ really was according to the covenants of the Constitution. The up/down vote on a simple, uncluttered addition to the structure of health care would tell Independents exactly who the gridlockers were.


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hastalkbelirtileri
Comment posted February 10, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

The message hasn’t been lost on some Republicans. Indeed, Brown packaged himself more as an independent outsider than a man of the Republican Party — a bow to the anti-establishment tea-party movement that mobilized so ardently behind him. Republican consultant Brad Todd told CQ recently that the mid-term elections will be governed by a “taint of incumbency.” Even Boehner conceded this week that voters “don’t trust either party.”


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The bottom line on health care is that virtually ALL of the processes need to be treated as incremental because they are changing so rapidly, but it takes a national commitment of not just the Independent majority, who just might not understand what genetic health security would do for them or their children, but also a commitment of Libertarian/Progressive minorities to the General Welfare and Justice covenants for a national building block system for health care, preferably without destroying the Liberty covenant with revenue waste and taxation. That would mean that a wellness concept exists to the point that the Congress and Executive don’t try to swim upstream in a whirlpool for the next 30 years, a gridlock that might cost Independents 20 trillion dollars in waste. In terms of incremental wellness, responsible conservatives need to give up the ‘no, no, no’ mentality as much as responsible liberals need to give up the ‘endless money’ mentality. There is no reason incremental wellness improvements can’t happen as long as the gridlock mechanisms cease to exist.


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