The Anti-Incumbency Myth

The storyline goes like this: Recent elections find voters in an angry, “anti-incumbent” mood.

Time magazine wrote: “This is how it goes in 2010 at the ballot box: old orders are upended, political lions become roadkill, chosen successors get left behind and the outsider, riding a wave of discontent, becomes the new front runner.”

The Associated Press wrote: “It’s an anti-Washington, anti-establishment year. And candidates with ties to either better beware. Any doubt about just how toxic the political environment is for congressional incumbents and candidates hand-picked by national Republican and Democratic leaders disappeared late Tuesday.”

No. Voters said: “It’s not the incumbents, stupid. It’s how they voted. It’s what they stand for.” No incumbent who voted against the Bush/Obama bank bailouts, the “stimulus” package and ObamaCare lost his or her job.

Voters hate the bank bailouts. They hate the government takeover of carcompanies. They do not believe that the $800 billion stimulus package stimulated anything but bigger government. They reject ObamaCare and think it’s costly and likely to worsen health care. Incumbents who voted for these things now face the music.

Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that Mark Critz — Democrat and former staffer of the late Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. — won the special election to succeed Murtha. But the pro-life, anti-gun control Critz said he would have voted against ObamaCare. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda of higher taxes, more spending and bigger government.

At their convention in Utah earlier this month, Republicans dumped incumbent and TARP supporter Sen. Bob Bennett, who also co-sponsored a health care bill that smelled a lot like ObamaCare. In Arkansas, another TARP supporter, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, must go through a June runoff election against a Democrat who painted her as a buddy to Wall Street banks. Calling Lincoln “Bailout Blanche,” her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, attacked her for taking contributions from Wall Street firms that received bailouts. He called TARP a cozy “Washington and Wall Street” arrangement that allows financial firms to fill “their pockets with insider deals and stick Arkansas families with the bill.”

In March, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, lost her party’s nomination for governor. Her opponent, incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, called her “Kay Bailout” over Hutchinson’s vote for TARP. A Republican libertarian won the GOP primary for Senate in Kentucky.

In Florida, Republicans dumped Gov. Charlie Crist in the primary race for Senate. Crist, in a photo used against him by his opponents, hugged President Barack Obama.

He supported the stimulus package. He also supported ObamaCare, a plan rejected by Florida voters, who, according to a Rasmussen poll, favor its repeal 62 percent to 33 percent. His Tea Party-backed opponent, Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House, portrayed Crist as insufficiently fiscally conservative.

In Arizona, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain finds himself in a primary dogfight against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. McCain did a 180 on “immigration reform” and now supports the new Arizona anti-illegal alien law. McCain famously “temporarily suspended” his presidential campaign during the Wall Street meltdown and voted for the widely unpopular bank bailouts.

The message is clear.

Obama and the Democrats misread the 2008 elections, misunderstood the mood of the people and pursued an agenda that voters neither expected nor wanted. Voters, unlike Democrats and many Republicans, reject the idea that financial firms deserve a taxpayer-paid rescue because they are “too big to fail.”

The No. 1 issue to voters remains the economy. Unemployment sits at nearly 10 percent. Voters think the stimulus either stimulated nothing or had no effect other than spending hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Two-thirds of those polled, according to the Pew Research Center, do not believe the stimulus created jobs. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans think it did nothing to create jobs. And only a slim majority of Democrats, 51 percent, think the stimulus helped to produce jobs.

On ObamaCare, Democrats assumed that after its passage, voters would gradually come around to supporting it. They haven’t. A recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters finds that 56 percent want it repealed, versus 39 percent who oppose repeal.

Voters see this administration as a bunch of leftist, redistribute-the-wealth, we-know-better-how-to-spend-your-money-and-run-your-lives-and-manage-your-businesses, smug busybodies. They see an administration that raised the debt and deficit in a year and a half to European-like levels that threaten present and future prosperity. They see an administration that believes fighting global warming takes precedence over jobs and productivity.

Tax revenues have plummeted, while government continues to grow. Banks and other companies that made bad bets or failed to effectively compete are propped up through bailouts that encourage future risky behavior.

People have been out of work for long periods of time. Homeowners are paying on homes worth less than their mortgages. There is a lot of hurt and pain and fear in the streets.

“We Are All Socialists Now,” said Newsweek in a cover story last year. “No,” say the voters. “We are not.”

Larry Elder is a syndicated radio talk show host and best-selling author. His latest book, “What’s Race Got to Do with It?” is available now. To find out more about Larry Elder, visit his Web page at

  • Al_Barrs

    Using the hyphenated word “anti-incumbent” is nothing more than a diversion by corrupt politicians and their propaganda news media! The oft spoken “anti-incumbent” mood has nothing to do with the average legal United States citizen’s disgust with what is going on in our Federal government.

    Bottom line…the majority of we legal citizens of the United States of America love our Republic, Constitution and Bill of Rights and we will fight to the death to preserve them and our freedoms, families and fortunes, meager as they may be. That is what this discourse is all about…period.

  • Jim C.

    "Obama and the Democrats misread the 2008 elections, misunderstood the mood of the people and pursued an agenda that voters neither expected nor wanted. Voters, unlike Democrats and many Republicans, reject the idea that financial firms deserve a taxpayer-paid rescue because they are “too big to fail.”

    Is Mr. Elder saying that Obama was elected, and the democrats won seats, because voters thought they would be against bailouts, et al? If that's the case, then what Mr. Elder is saying is voters are really, really stupid.

    The federal government saved our ass. (Again).

    So good luck trying to make hay: The American car companies have had their first good year in a long time–finally offering products people under 70 want to buy. Many of the bailouts have been paid back with interest; many more will be paid back. Sure, we all know the upside to lax regulatory environments, when the going is good: between the financial crisis and the BP spill, now they see the downside of a federal gov. too cozy with its regulatees.

    Y'all keep trying to push the "Big Bad Fed Gov" meme, see how far it gets you.

    • USMCSniper

      The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775. The government had 234 years to get it right and it is broke. Social Security was established in 1935. The government had 74 years to get it right and it is broke. Fannie Mae was established in 1938. The government had 71 years to get it right and it is broke. War on Poverty started in 1964. The government had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor" and they only want more. Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965. The government had 44 years to get it right and they are broke. Freddie Mac was established in 1970. The government had 39 years to get it right and it is broke. The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. The government had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure. The government has FAILED in every "government service.

      • trickyblain

        Seems to me all of those are still functioning – abeit not as effiecent as we would like. You're old. You still get your monthy check, right? Just sying it failed doesn't make it so.

        Your're saying almost half of the total fed tax revenue goes to War on Poverty programs? LOL.

        • USMCSniper

          You say…."abeit not as effiecent as we would like — I am saying almost half of the total fed tax revenue goes to entitlement programs.

          This year, the Federal government will spend more than $2.5 trillion—an amount almost impossible to grasp. If you do the math, this number translates into $6.8 billion a day, or $4.72 million a minute and $8454 for each man, woman and child in the country. Nearly three-quarters of the federal budget goes to 4 areas: the military, health-care benefits, interest on the national debt and Social Security. The rest goes to various social-aid programs, including education grants, scientific research, the arts, support for small businesses, foreign aid and running the government. The military will spend including estimates for the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only $527 billion worst case, of the $2,5 trillion budget on military expenses this year.

    • pianoforte

      And the money paid back to the government was paid with government money so how can that be a good thing? That's like robbing Paul to pay Paul…Mr. Jim, you must be yet another mislead American who has come to rely on the government taking care of you instead of taking care of yourself… I fear there are just TOO many like you but I hope I am proved wrong.

  • trickyblain

    Strange that Obama would made health care reform a central campaign platform if nobody wanted it.

    • pianoforte

      It's tragic that those who just suck off the tit (i.e. the government) are the SAME ones who brought him into the WH. Trickyblain….You and all like you, do not want to hurt the hand that feeds you.

      • ReddSt

        bitch please…i voted for Obama and by your ignorant comments, i can say with complete confidence that i make way more money than you do and your fat ass will be sucking up more tax payer dollars because of your disgusting eating habits(like most people of the treasonist confederate states) and love for excess and waste. You are the same racist coward hippocrit that will want your social security check and your medicare if you or your parents aren't already on it.

      • ReddSt

        The same idiots for example in AR which is where im from always try to play this welfare card but while my grandfather and other blacks around the community were being denied federal loans for farming for years even though we owned thousands of acres(the land that wasn't stolen by whites in the 20s from my family), the cowardly and whining whites in the community were getting major farm subsidies from the government not only for farming , but to buy their kids chevys, fords, and other expensive trucks to drive to school in while i road the bus.Because we were middle class , i was often caught in the"your parents make to much category…so sorry nothin but hard word here(certainly harder than people like you) My white classmates told me that their parents use to just write those vehicles off as farm equipment by the way ..So who was gettin welfare asshole? To you and any other confederate asshole on here that are talking this secession shit these days…i say bring it on and you will get your asses put in the dirt just like your predecessors but faster…lol

  • USMCSniper

    Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on Tuesday afternoon called on reporters to demand to see the birth certificate of new Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii). In his own words: "Weww, it wooks wike we have a pwobwem heoh. Dees Wepubwicans have to pwove dey bewong in office, just wike dey want fwom ow pwesident. Oh, you mean de onwee one it matters for is de pwesident? Weww, jus ignore dem. Dey wiww fowget his birfpwace, wiff aww the pwobwems wew cweating ewsewhewe."