Don’t let the roaches survive

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

I breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week.

Tuesday was the final day to file for upcoming elections and most of the publicly elected positions in the area will have at least two candidates vying for political office.

I don’t support challengers versus incumbents and I don’t have a problem with any of the present elected leaders, but for a democratic system to work properly, the voters need choices. I am in favor of democracy and voters need challengers to incumbency to maintain a healthy democracy.

During the second half of the 20th century, incumbents in the United States House of Representatives who sought re-election were successful almost 90 percent of the time.

Commercial markets thrive on competition and American consumers enjoy better products, better prices and better service as a direct result of a competitive marketplace. Monopolies are bad for consumers, plain and simple.

The same applies to political offices and the need for competition in the political “marketplace” is vital.

Just like commercial markets, victims of “monopoly” politics often pay higher prices and get less in return. The lack of competition allows political incumbents to manipulate the political arena to protect themselves from challengers.

Charlie Cook, a political guru and the author of several widely read political reports, once stated “incumbents are like roaches, you cannot kill them,” referring to the fund-raising advantages enjoyed by incumbents.

Although this description sounds harsh, the point is well taken because incumbents typically raise and spend more money than challengers, adding to their ease of victory.

“Business as usual” by incumbents sometimes leads to stagnation and cronyism. Some political incumbents also act in ways to raise their chances of re-election and to further their political careers. For example, incumbents may influence tax policy or budgets in order to influence voter support. Unscrupulous politicians often use their office to sell political favors in exchange for campaign contributions.

The two party system also plays a major role in the incumbency dominance. Most districts traditionally vote for same party during elections, regardless of the candidate, stifling political challengers and diversity.

Many politicians want to do what’s right for their constituents and are sincere, experienced and capable. These politicians want to take care of the voters, but they also want to be re-elected. Unfortunately, these two priorities become so intertwined in some politicians’ minds that staying in power becomes the main objective.