Wednesday, November 24

What a big suprise!

This will be my last post for a few days, so I hope you all have a wonderful T-Day and enjoy this from the

U.S. House Elections: Rigged for Incumbents

In the 2004 elections, incumbents in the House of Representatives won an incredible 98-plus percent of their races -- a return rate reminiscent of the notorious no-choice "elections" of totalitarian states.

It wasn't a fluke. Incumbents won by that same percentage in the past four elections.

Further, they are winning by increasingly higher percentages of votes.

Indeed, incumbents are so entrenched that, in almost a third of House races this year, the incumbent either faced no opposition or faced only token, unfunded candidates.

Is all this because Americans have come to love the current crop of incumbent representatives? Hardly. It's largely because incumbents have passed laws that give themselves almost unbeatable advantages in elections.

A recent Cato Institute commentary, "Once Again, Incumbents Are the Big Winners" by Patrick Basham and John Samples, noted some of these advantages:

* The congressional franking privilege lets incumbents flood their districts with tax-funded "updates" that are barely disguised campaign literature.

* Representatives keep large tax-funded staffs in Washington and in district offices that boost their image and raise their profile.

* As the Cato commentary notes, "Incumbents also receive taxpayer-subsidized travel, easy access to the media and, most recently, Web sites to communicate with the electorate."

* Of course, incumbents hand out pork barrel goodies to key voting areas -- an ancient practice akin to bribery or vote-buying, and now carried out at astronomical expense to taxpayers.

* Redistricting by state political parties has divided much of the country into non-competitive Democratic or Republican House "safe districts" where the dominant party is almost unbeatable.

* Campaign finance laws, carefully crafted by the incumbents, make it extremely difficult for political challengers and newcomers to raise funds to run serious competitive campaigns.

As for third parties, they are faced with all of the above plus, in many states, severe ballot access laws that make it extremely difficult, and sometimes virtually impossible, for a third party to even run candidates at all.

In Georgia, perhaps the worst such state, ballot requirements are so oppressive that not a single third party House candidate has ever been able to get on the ballot.

Cato authors Basham and Samples conclude:

"In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that the House of Representatives was a "numerous and changeable body" that would most directly reflect the shifting popular will. These days, changes in the House are the rare exception rather than the democratic rule. Representative democracy works best when voters have choices and competition for office. Americans have too little of both now."

(Sources: Cato Institute: "Once Again, Incumbents Are the Big Winners"
by Patrick Basham and John Samples: )


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