Political InQueery: The Annual Vote for Change
Maybe the summer only seems quiet, free from the stresses of the holiday season, the doldrums of mid-winter, and the frantic fervor of spring. Maybe this is when we're lulled into complicity and we acquiesce into a false sense of comfort. Because fall is just around the corner, and it's not just any fall this year: it's the 2010 Midterm Elections. The world is ending, and so far, nobody cares.
Well, it's not really ending, and there are at least a few people who care, in that there is a steady stream of Tweets from Karl Rove about how the Democrats are going to lose big in the fall election cycle, when all of the seats in the House are up for bids, and 36 seats in the Senate host races. Although Sen. Byrd of West Virginia died late last month, Governor Manchin is going to appoint a successor and keep the state on the same schedule for its next 6-year cycle; West Virginia is due to hold an election for Byrd's former seat in 2012.
I've heard for years that the midterm elections—the one at the midpoint of a President's administration—are bad for the incumbent party. The theory goes that some of the candidates who ran on the President's coattails don't do nearly as well running on their own. Although that may be a tendency, there is still a lot of fluttering around what party losses in Congress signify for the sitting executive. And there is a hell of a lot of of public mastication regarding what incumbents should do to protect themselves and how their opponents should frame their campaigns.
For starters, let's talk about change. Obama's nifty logos were certainly not the first ones to call for change, though they may have had an above-average amount of oomph behind them. I scarcely knew anyone who wanted to vote for McCain, including many of the Republicans I know. In this congressional reelection season, however, it's the small but vocal number of Tea Party candidates who are brandishing the change banner.
Up in Alaska, Joe Miller wants to "take America back." After two years of slippery sloping our way to socialism. It's high time someone did something about this. On Rand Paul's Senate campaign site, it reads:
Government and debt are growing. Liberty is shrinking.
Maybe this means he'll challenge Arizona's anti-immigrant laws? Or get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, where we are spending billions every month?
I think I'm confused. Perhaps part of the problem is that in every single election, we can vote for change. Change isn't any more content-infused than pointing out someone's accent is. Note to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer: everyone has an accent. Saying anyone with an accent won't be allowed to teach in public schools means you'll have no teachers. And clearly, you need teachers over there.
By definition, voting out an incumbent means voting for change. If an incumbent isn't seeking reelection, voting for the other party to fill the void is voting for change. What's wrapped up in "change" is the idea that the current office holder is doing something wrong. This can't be true for every incumbent, of course, but political campaigns what they are, mud-slinging is an easy way to rile up the voters.
What's fascinating to me in this election is how far to the right the rhetoric has gotten. Of course liberals are right out, from the Tea Party's vantage point. But Alaska's Murkowski—who's running against Joe Miller—is a Republican, a moderate. Fiorina's primary campaign in California, which I reference with the "evil sheep" picture up top, created "FCINO," Fiscal Conservative In Name Only. Everyone in the GOP is suspect. That moderates like Murkowski are under such attack, defined as part of the problem, carries important consequences after the election. Even Mike Huckabee thinks the Tea Party is too far right, and he's not exactly centrist. If Tea Party candidates find themselves with the responsibility of governing, what will they do with the reality of Washington, DC?
Someone will call for change.
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