June 27, 2014
In the early 1980s I became familiar with a cartoonist whom I considered to be one of the cleverest men I had read in a very long time. I collected as many of his pieces as possible. When I showed a friend his work, however, she diffidently sniffed, “This is nonsensical;” a common response from anyone too dense to understand erudite wit. My judgment was vindicated within a few years when the first of Gary Larson’s collections was released, and by the 1990s it was almost heretical not to peruse his daily entry.
Perhaps the quintessential frame in his canon depicts a traveling salesman at the door of a hapless moron. In the peddler’s hand is a thick pamphlet which advertises “Double Your IQ or No Money Back!” to which his mark responds, “Well, I dunno … Okay, sounds good to me.”
Is there a better epitaph for modern America? Watching the election results being tallied in Mississippi, one would doubt it.
For where else do people complain so much about their state of affairs yet do so little to alter them? The hoary phrase goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” If so, then irritability is having to endure rubes falling for the same slogans again and again.
Therefore I have devised the following elaborate theorem, which offers at least some possibility of reprieve: never under any circumstances cast a ballot for an incumbent.
Oh, we”ve all heard the arguments (usually from someone desperate to cling to his seat). Our district will lose seniority. Our system needs to be guided by experience. Our long-suffering plutocrats have served us for too long to be cast aside by any save death itself. Let us take these as they are slung at us.
While seniority is certainly important on the Hill, as soon as your party is a minority in the body, those prime appointments to chairman are lost and said savior of his district becomes another warm body in an easy chair, gathering time. So this is a dubious argument at best, and vapid if you are a Republican in the Senate or, to a lesser degree, a Democrat in the House.
As for experience, it is many of those learned hands that have rammed the ship of state upon the shoals. They say that for your first two years in the House (in other words, your entire first term) you do nothing but listen. Then, if party bosses think you can hold onto your office, they might listen to what you have to say around year six. There are exceptions, but very few. On the contrary: almost any problem from the VA to Iraq is the responsibility of incumbents elected approximately 1992 or before. Neophytes couldn”t possibly do worse than what we have now.
Most pathetic of all lamentations from those with precarious seats is the claim they have been such fine stewards of the public good that we should overlook a terrible record and reelect them because they are decent people. Many a fool falls for this nonsense, and few realize the commendation they received when their high school team played the regional championship, the congratulatory note for winning prize porker at the state fair, and even birthday cards to centenarians are more attributable to a good staff than a good statesman. Why is it that because someone is a nice fellow to little old ladies it should follow that he won”t stab everyone from steel workers to subprime mortgage victims in the back?
Given the condition of the government today, radical change needs to occur. Given the populace’s inability to comprehend that Washington is a swamp which most soils those who remain in it the longest, there is but one solution. Never vote for an incumbent. Vote for anyone else.
Elect alternatives. Elect third parties. Elect the homeless. Elect the feeble-minded. Elect the deviant. Elect the insane (although future historians may well argue that’s exactly what has gotten us into this mess).