Confehr: Change cuts both ways, incumbents have edge

Friday, July 29, 2011

Perhaps my theory on political vacuums will be substantiated or dismissed in about 16 months.

It's based on observations that when a long-time leader steps aside, or is defeated, there's a reaction to the change.

After a honeymoon period when a new leader has settled in, events test the public's patience and/or satisfaction with the official.

The reaction among voters and the public will be an indication on whether the new leader will survive, or seem like a bench warmer.

It was so in a city about an hour's drive from here after a mayor stepped aside. An eager successor was elected, but didn't last. The new mayor's predecessor was an elected leader for three decades.

Then there was a sheriff who served three terms, suffered a problematic murder case that probably put the right people in jail, but not for murder. This one is complicated, but a 12-year incumbent was removed. The successor is a wise, good old boy who might hang on or retire.

My other examples are local, not national, but the behavior of a new crop of congressmen is disturbing.

Recently, a number of long-time senators and congressmen decided the Washington atmosphere is toxic. They bowed out. Some were at the top of their game, politically, and had the effectiveness that comes with experience.

Their successors and/or supporters wrap themselves in historic garb, display a revolutionary spirit and apparently object to one of the tools of the art of politics: compromise.

Among their ranks are people who use talking points more than reason. A recurring chant is they want to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Now, America faces major problems: the debt ceiling, spending cuts, and how to avoid default. Nobody likes to pay taxes. Too few realize inflation is a consequence of political dysfunction over national budgets.

Results of the Tribune's online poll indicate people reading our Web site blame both sides about as much as either party.

Will the next election be when voters say, "A pox on both your houses?"

Meanwhile, there will be some confusion over reapportionment of populations in congressional districts.

And, in a country where six months is a political lifetime for some, the stupid economy will drive voters to the polls if conditions don't improve.

Maybe the debt ceiling is only about politics, but there's an odd sameness to the stock market now. Pray that it's not calm before the storm. Financial wizards are saying don't make investment decisions based on what might happen if there's a default.

Does that mean financiers have already figured out what's going to happen and are just waiting for the storm to prove them right or wrong?

There are other constants. The incumbent has the advantage. Change is constant.

There is one thing that's for sure. It doesn't take much to see that the problems of one little county don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. At the end of the day, will your elected leader, or banker, retire to be a pastry chef?

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.