Politics Shouldn’t Be A Lifetime Job

Politics Shouldn’t Be A Lifetime Job: In America, becoming a Senator or congressman has become nothing more than just another job. That’s because once someone gets into office, it’s extraordinarily difficult to get rid of them. How bad is it? David Garrow cites a few statistics from the last election…

“In New Jersey, only one of 13 Congressional races was won with less than 60 percent of the vote. In New York State, it was only three of 29, while in Ohio it was only three of 18. In California, only Gary Condit’s House seat was considered up for grabs; of the state’s other 52 seats, 49 of them were won by a candidate who received 60 percent or more of the vote. Of Florida’s 25 Congressional seats, only two were decided by anything closer than 60-40, notwithstanding a competitive race for governor. In Illinois only two of 19 races were tighter than 60-40. Michigan featured just two Congressional contests out of 15 that were closer than 60-40, while its gubernatorial winner won by only 51 percent of the vote. This pattern was seen all over the country.

The final tally was depressing indeed: only 39 of 435 House races were won with less than 55 percent of the vote. Even of the 49 races not involving an incumbent, 35 were won with 55 percent of the vote or more. Yet at the same time, real political competition was occurring just a few ballot lines away in the nation’s gubernatorial elections and in many Senate races.

Why? Because those races could not be manipulated by redistricting to ensure a particular outcome. In 36 gubernatorial contests, only three were won by upward of 60 percent of the vote (in Colorado, Nebraska and Nevada) and 23 of the 36 races were won with less than 55 percent of the vote. Indeed, 20 of the 36 statehouses shifted from one party to another.”

Although Farrow claims that the elections in the Senate featured “real political competition”, that’s not true. There were only 10 out of 34 races that had outcomes that were ever in doubt before the election. There are a variety of reasons why races in neither house tend to be competitive: gerrymandering, fund raising and name recognition advantages for incumbents, seniority rules enabling incumbents to bring home more bacon, etc.

To make a long story short, winning a seat in Congress means that in most cases you have a lifetime job. The situation isn’t much different in the Senate where a horde of fossils have had seats for decades. Just look at this list of Senators who have been in office 25 YEARS or more…

Strom Thurmond — Serving Since 1956
Robert Byrd — Serving Since 1958
Edward Kennedy — Serving Since 1962
Daniel K. Inouye — Serving Since 1963
Ernest F. Hollings — Serving Since 1966
Ted Stevens — Serving Since 1968
Jessie Helms — Serving Since 1973
Pete Domenici — Serving Since 1973
Joseph Biden — Serving Since 1973
Patrick Leahy – Serving Since 1975
Paul Sarbanes — Serving Since 1977
Richard Lugar — Serving Since 1977
Orrin Hatch — Serving Since 1977

It’s not healthy for our country to have people of either party making the position of Senator or congressman into just another job. Furthermore, it’s not as if any of these people isn’t EASILY replaceable. There are governors, mayors, state legislators, successful businessmen, and community leaders in every state of the union who would be capable of stepping up to fill these positions. So why not let them do so?

We need new faces & news ideas in Congress and there are at least two ways to do it. One is suggested by the article: take redistricting away from the politicians away from the politicians and draw districts based on a non-partisan basis. That will increase the number of competitive districts in the House dramatically. We also need to implement term limits. Perhaps 12 years for the Senate and 8 years for the house. That would help keep our politicians in touch and help keep America going strong.

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