Alex Massie

The Problem With Contested Elections...

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More on the special election in Massachusetts in due course. But Dan Drezner makes a good case for the ghastliness of politics:

For those readers who have never had the privilege of living in a battleground state, let me explain what the experience is like.  Every other television commercial is about the campaign.  Day after day, the race dominates the front page of the newspaper.  Your mailbox is stuffed with fliers for or against one of the candidates.  Your friends and neighbors talk about the campaign -- and who you support can affect your friendships.  You can't escape the race. 

All of this would be tolerable if it were not for two things.  First, the phone calls.  Over this weekend, by my count, we have received ten phone calls asking us to vote for or against someone, and then a few phone calls on top of that polling us about our voting intentions [...] Since these inquiries can't be put on the Do Not Call list, the phone will not stop ringing. 

Second, the candidates are God awful.  Seriously, they stink.  Just to review our choices:  Democrat Martha Coakley has a prosecutor's complex that would make Javert seeem like a bleeding-heart liberal.  She is a God-awful politician so out of touch with  reality that she accused Red Sox hero extraordinaire Curt Schilling of being a Yankee fan (Schilling's blog response is here).  Based on the ads I've seen, her campaign has also been, by far, the nastier of the two.

This leaves Republican Scott Brown, who based on this vacuous Boston Globe op-ed, is an empty shirt with no actual policy content whatsoever.  He was in favor of health care reform before he was against it.  He can't stand the run-up in government debt, and wants to cut taxes across the board to take care of the problem -- cause that makes perfect economic sense.   The one thing he is unequivocally for is waterboarding suspected terrorists

Quite. And Dan, remember, is a professor of political science. On a more substantive point, the American public is so scunnered by politics that you can (almost!) make a case for arguing that it's better to be in the minority than the majority in Congress. True, voters aren't impressed by the GOP opposition but that's a semi-hypothetical or at least secondary dislike: they don't like Nancy Pelosi either and she's the one running the shop.

True too, voters are pesky creatures. They want Congress to achieve something. The problem is that almost anything that is proposed is automatically unpopular - regardless of which party is in the majority. That's one of the many reasons why there's been very little "big" legislation passed these past 15 to 20 years.

In an alternative political landscape that would recommend stripping power from Washington and returning it to the states. Unsurprisingly there aren't many people in Washington, in either party, who like that idea. It would be a counter-revolution and, as such, dangerous, complicated and liable to end in surprising places.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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