Mark Leibovich of the New York Times has written a pretty scathing book about Washington, DC, called This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital. It is a pretty accurate portrayal of the Washington, DC more and more Americans have come to hold in contempt. There exists in Washington a new aristocracy where, for example, a poor boxer from Searchlight, NV, can get elected to the United States Senate, become wealthy enough to live at the Ritz, and see his family profit from K Street.
It is a city where the new aristocrats move and do not want to leave. It is a town in need of an enema.
Consider the Republicans in the United States Senate up for re-election in 2014. Below is a chart I have prepared of their tenure in DC (in some cases the House plus the Senate):
Thad Cochran has been there more than four decades and Pat Roberts three. Mitch McConnell has been in Washington, DC since I was in fifth grade. Are they really the best we can do? Really? Some of them, as you can see by the links, have been in office a very long time and, somehow like Harry Reid on a civil servant’s salary, have done quite well.
No man is indispensable. A time will come when conservatives will look at Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul and wonder why they are still there. But right now, they are the only three putting consistent points on the board. Marco Rubio, save for immigration, often stands with them. All four have been in Washington only a little while. The rest seem more interested in putting coins in their pockets.
Do you really believe that should Thad Cochran or Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham lose their primaries that they would return to their home states? Their home state is Washington, D.C. They are creatures of the city. Old congressman don’t go to their home states, they go to K Street.
The Republican Party has grown stagnant. Our leaders pursue old ideas unable to repackage them for the twenty-first century. They have grown comfortable with Washington’s paternalism and have become convinced the problem is Democrats in charge and not government itself. They talk of small government, but they often do not practice what they preach.
There’s no reason the Republican Party should have to settle. These people have been complicit in designing a campaign system that benefits incumbents. They send their staff to K Street who report back with checks. They pick winners and losers just like Barack Obama does. We just happen to like their picks more than his.
There is no reason we should be satisfied with people who remain in office for forty years. We should be willing to support the term limits one supports by finding and supporting primary challengers. Conservatives in 2014 should embrace a pretty simple rule:
Support credible primary challengers against entrenched, long tenured Republicans.
Even if the challengers lose, the incumbents need to understand they have to start putting points on the board instead of just expecting our support because of the “R” next to their name. They have coasted too long.