The Fall of the Incumbents

For months now, speculation has been rife that the Tea Party movement and the grassroots revolt against big-government that it represents poses a real threat to political incumbents of both parties. Yesterday’s primary election results have transformed such speculation into political reality.

In Kentucky, the Tea-Party backed candidate, Rand Paul, the son of libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul, won a convincing victory over Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Greyson. Greyson enjoyed the support of the GOP establishment, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell, but Paul had the Tea Party insurgents on his side. Unapologetically embracing the Tea Partiers, Paul ran on a straightforward small-government platform, calling for a balanced federal budget, a reduced national debt, and an end to government bailouts and subsidies for private industries and interests. In the end, he won by a comfortable margin.

Rand Paul’s victory is only the latest example of the Tea Partiers successfully gate-crashing the official Republican camp. In Utah earlier this month, voters in the Republican nomination convention heeded the Tea Party movement’s urging to dump Sen. Bob Bennett. Dooming Bennett was his support for several big-government initiatives, most prominently the Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has also met with the wrath of the Tea Partiers, whose opposition forced him surrender the Republican mantle to Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in favor of an independent run. Polls suggest he faces an uphill struggle.

While the Tea Parties have had their greatest impact on Republican primary races, Democrats have also born the brunt of the anti-incumbent backlash. In Pennsylvania last night, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter lost the state’s Democratic primary to two-term Rep. Joe Sestak, effectively ending his political career. Even in the absence of anti-incumbent sentiment, Specter’s was a tall order: He had to convince voters that his political conversion was a matter of principle rather than, as was apparent to all, pure political expedience. It was an obvious fiction that not even President Obama, who campaigned for Specter and even cut radio and television ads on his behalf, could make credible.

Even here, though, the Tea Party, or at least its brand of anti-Washington angst, made its presence felt. In his victory speech, Sestak sounded like nothing so much as a Tea Party candidate, as he hailed his win as a triumph “over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.” Of course, it’s a bit rich for a Democrat to style himself as an opponent of Washington, where after all Democrats control both houses of Congress. But such is the national mood that even the party in charge must distance itself from any association with leadership.

Arlen Specter meanwhile is not the only political veteran on the Democratic side, however recent his affiliation, to find himself out of a job for too-close a connection with Washington’s failures. In West Virginia last week, 14-term Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan became the first House member in 2010 to lose a reelection bid. Although he lost to a fellow Democrat, key in Mollohan’s defeat was his support for the Obama administration’s health care overhaul. It is a sign of perilous times ahead for the party that, even in a Democratic primary, support for the Democratic administration’s signature legislative initiative has become a political death warrant.

Still, that does not yet make the Tea Party and its small-government vision kingmaker in political races. While the influence of the Tea Partiers has obviously been important, the usual primary season caveats apply. Primary elections tend to draw a more ideologically motivated cohort of voters, and it remains to be seen whether the Tea Party will be a significant factor in the fall’s elections races. And yet it is becoming increasingly implausible to claim, as many in the prestige media have, that the Tea Party and the backlash against big government are fringe phenomena. As Rand Paul declared in his victory speech last night: “I have a message from the Tea Party. We’ve come to take our government back.” They will soon have their chance.

  • Gary Rumain

    Can you smell the fear? Its Chanel's Blind Panic #5.

    • Syd Barrett

      Gary, you say a lot of funny stuff, but this one is really good!

      • Gary Rumain

        Thanks, I try my best. Check out my blog too. You might find it amusing as well.

  • kafir4life

    Somebody please check on the safety of Mrs. Spector. According to dirty Harry Reid, the wives of Demoncraptic congressf**ks are in danger of physical violence at the hands of their husbands in the event any of them lose their jobs.

  • davarino

    How did Spector last for 30 years? We definately need term limits cause that is to long. I dont care who is in office, a couple of terms ought to be enough and then you go back to have a real life. And you dont get to come back as a lobbiest and milk the system some more. A couple of terms and you go home to be with your family, and stop chasing interns and pages.

    I am giddy with excitement over the momentum I feel building. We may just get our country back and become a great nation once again.

    Too bad we wont get to be like all the other nations of the world……second rate.

    • Stephen_Brady

      How did he last for 30 years?

      He played both sides of the aisles, took the positions that were most popular, and changed parties whenever he decided it would win him an election. This time, he was wrong …

      I agree with you that the momentum is building. The politicians of both parties are getting the message, though the GOP is more comfortable with it. I work with the candidate who is best capable of getting the GOP nomination for President in 2012 (I'm sorry, but this person hasn't declared, yet, and so I can't tell you who it is). But his/her embracing of the Tea Party movement has so much excitement in the campaign that we can almost "taste" Inauguration Day.

      There's a lot of work to be done, yet, however. We can't just assume that we'll win automatically. If we want our country back, we'll have to work unceasingly between now and Inauguration Day, 2013.

  • bpaolucci

    I think the Republican Party will have to muster up some more respect for the Tea Party now that Rand Paul won handily. I do understand the support for Paul's GOP opponent, and really either way the GOP won last night. But, we are a force and one that will continue to build on these successes. We do mean to take back America.

    I'd tell everyone that we can't sit back and enjoy these intermediate successes, we all have to keep fighting to win in November 2010 & 2012 . And to my fellow New Yorkers – we have a particularly difficult uphill battle – we need to oust the legislature and governor – so let's make some noise about the candidates here too.

  • Guest

    Sad and anxiety-provoking for them and satisfying for us, as the incumbents look toward an imminent end to their careers as government leaders. Good luck finding jobs in the private sector, boys: in the words of Ghostbusters, they expect results!

    Soon we'll have elected amateurs as our leaders, but then, considering the mess made by the experienced and seasoned leaders, it may not be a questionable thing to have done.

  • Stanley Yuzuk

    Nice of you to give credit to the "TEA Party". For the last 10 years I have been writing letters to the editor, comments on blogs, and pleas to anyone that would listen, for voters to join my crusade and vote against ALL incumbents!! Monkeys in the zoo could do a better job than the DemocRATS and RepubliCANS we have serving us in Congress now!!

    • Jim C.

      I'm a liberal but I think the TEA party, while sometimes confused, is a very healthy thing. It's always good to see regular citizens getting politically active and it's heartening to see them get results. Anything that shakes up the well-worn grooves that predetermine our usual candidates. TEA party people may be more or less "conservative" than me, but I know they have the same concerns. Not so sure about Yale lawyers, Texas oilmen, Wall Street execs…

  • poptoy

    I truly hope all of you are correct. I am beginning to wonder? I want a big win for Conservatives in November but I am beginning to wonder if people have really begun to wake up

    • em2brown

      i dont thank they have because everybody is afraid of being called out. where is the america i grew up in

  • beckncall

    I believe Obama and company will be feverishly working on amnesty. That is the only way they can stop the American people and the constitution. They stop that they rule the world.

    • Syd Barrett

      That is truly scary. Let's let millions of criminals influence our laws. (If this is all about "income redistribution", why is it that public officials in favor of it are rich? Why don't they do a little redistribution on their own, so show us how that works?)

      Even if amnesty doesn't pass in time for November – and I'm betting it will – they will still steal votes via ACORN-esque voter fraud.

      I also think the time has come to REQUIRE by LAW that every candidate for federal office be required to whip out their official long-form birth certificate.

  • Syd Barrett

    Like Arlen, I'm a registered Republican at the moment, but I'm going to change my party affiliation to Democrat. So I can help influence the primary! I live in Florida, so that ought to be fun!

    • USMCSniper

      Be careful of who you associate with. When you lie down with dogs it guaranteed that you will get fleas.

  • USMCSniper

    Arlen Spectre lied that the Republican party left him, and now the Democratic Party really has left him, and of course he blames the Tea Party. Maybe it is just you Arlen, – you're too old, too stupid, and just too damned dishonest wvwn for the likes of Democrats. And… ,aybe it is just Karma?

  • freedom fighter

    I hate to think about how much power the regime will try to consolidate before the next session of Congress. Then the Chairman will take out his veto and executive order pens. Two thirds of both Houses is hard to come by to over-ride the veto power.

  • lllh

    We need to keep focused for the long haul even at the local level, City Council, School Boards, County and State level. As we all know, freedom is not free.

    • Gary Rumain

      Yes, very good point. There are major infestations of these traitors everywhere. They need to be rooted out.

    • Kanwi

      I agree and nor is freedom of speech when it incites to hate and kill. When the Mosque Imans and their cohorts preach in that stuff in a mosque or on the street the police should be arresting them for sedition and undermining social order. Then comes the consequences and enforcement. If they can be super sensitive about their barbaric pedophile Saviour being slandered or slurred then so can we about our values and way of life. It's past time to reject Islam, Sharia practices and it's toxic encroachment.

  • Jim Johnson

    I would like people to pay as much attention to politics as they do to sports. So many people know the batting averages or can narrate the play by play action of every basket ball game ever played. But few know the voting records of their congressmen. If they payed close attention to McCain from the beginning I doubt if he would have lasted for one term.
    Well maybe they now very aware of the political situation. Now that they are felling the pain they wake up. Now that it is the eleventh hour.