The return of the new Congress must be like the first day of school in the Fall - nostalgic to see old friends; reminiscences about the departed; a sense of maturity about moving up a grade; and anticipation about the new kids - perhaps a speedy running back for the football team or a cute girl to help with your English homework. Lets talk about the new kids.
All of the attention given to Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle by the Democrats and the media obscure the fact that there will be about 20% new faces in the House, 10% in the Senate, and 30 % in statehouses. Most will be nationally unknown, and Republican. The 2008 presidential election should have made the point that running a good campaign has little to do with an ability to govern, and nobody knows how this crop will work out, but there is reason for optimism:
- The Tea party movement will bring more people with "real world" experience - business people; veterans; non-politicians. Wisconsin businessman/accountant Ron Johnson has a good point that with jobs and budget problems being the central issues, it would be good to have at least one manufacturer and accountant in the Senate rather than a 57th lawyer. (Would that President Obama would heed the message.)
- The tricky "racist" Republicans have a growing number of minority leaders in Congress and governorships: Hispanics (Marco Rubio in Florida; Brian Sandoval in Nevada; Susana Martinez in New Mexico); Indians (Nikki Haley in South Carolina to join Bobby Jindal in Louisiana); and competitive Vietnamese (Joseph Cao in New Orleans; Van Tran in Orange County.) While there are a few competitive African American Republicans (Allen West in Florida; Tim Scott in South Carolina), they remain outliers in the age of Obama. In the Senate and governorships, the Republicans are demonstrably more diverse than the Democrats.
It will take awhile to see who John Boozman of Arkansas, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and their scores of compatriots really are. Most will be average. But just a couple of years ago, nobody knew Paul Ryan of Wisconsin or Chris Cristie of New Jersey. The younger generation of political leadership is tilting decidedly Republican. And thank you for those who were early identifiers of candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida
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