Paul Jacob

The media reported earth-shattering results this week at the polls in Connecticut and around the country — the colossal defeats of congressional incumbents of both parties. In the Senate, a single incumbent was denied re-nomination (the third such occurrence in the last 25 years). In the House, two incumbents lost, a whopping one-half of one percent of that chamber.

What's wrong with this picture?

Despite the hype, our politics is stagnant. So stagnant, in fact, that an incumbent being defeated is like a sighting of Halley's Comet — even though polls show massive, majority dissatisfaction with politicians of both parties.

Of course, it's still possible for an incumbent to flame out on her own accord. U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) was one of the three incumbents defeated last Tuesday, because . . . well, she's Cynthia McKinney. To put it nicely, in the stagnant waters of Congress, she made her own waves. Her campaign flamed and fizzled regardless of the powers of incumbency or money.

But the basic fact about our political representation is that our reps have got it made, and, by and large, they make sure they keep getting back in, election after election.

"Turnover in the modern U.S. House of Representatives is minimal," writes University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato. "Redistricting and the advantages of incumbency help to insure it."

Nonetheless, for whacked-out, anti-money leftists — and most incumbent politicians — the answer is to give federal regulators (read: incumbent politicians) ever more control over our elections, to "force out big money."

Funny, but what little competition we see in congressional elections, especially last Tuesday's, is dependent on the so-called "big money" that finds its way into the public dialogue via "loopholes" in federal campaign regulations.

Let's call them "loopholes of freedom."

U.S. Senate Candidate Ned Lamont certainly has a cause. But without the so-called millionaires' exception that allowed him to spend $2.5 million of his own money, could he have ever made it a race?


And note: Lamont was still outspent by the incumbent, Senator Joe Lieberman.

Lamont's candidacy calls up memories of the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, in which Eugene McCarthy quixotically challenged President Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam War policy. Tangling with the incumbent president of one's own party would have been a disaster were it not for three anti-war millionaires who bankrolled McCarthy's campaign, making history by knocking Johnson out of the presidential race.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.