Voter emotions must be tempered with reason, logic

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, May 23, 2010

An anti-incumbent, anti-establishment fervor seems to besweeping across the nation given the results of several recentelectoral contests, but voters would be wise to take a step backand carefully consider whom they target for ouster.

That consideration is especially important for small states likeMississippi, which benefit from the seniority and plum committeepostings earned by long-serving congressmen and senators.

That the Tea Party movement and general unrest with government haveenergized some parts of the electorate is a wonderful thing. Onewonders where the country would be or how it would look had voterinterest been higher in years past when election outcomes seemed toon autopilot.

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However, the voter involvement tipping point – brought about bypoor economic conditions and runaway government spending – does notneed to bring about “fruitbasket turnover” in all elected offices.A “throw the bums out” mentality is dangerous and still not likelyto produce the desired results.

After all, does Mississippi really want to bring U.S. Sen. ThadCochran (who is not up for re-election this year) home after he hasbecome ranking Republican on the powerful Senate AppropriationsCommittee? And even though he is loathed by Republicans, Democratic2nd District U.S. Bennie Thompson has positioned himself to helphis home state and the nation as chairman of the House HomelandSecurity Committee.

This is not a plea for a “get ‘em in, keep ‘em in” approach toelecting leaders. What it is is a request to add a dose of thoughtand contemplation to the high emotions being fueled by Tea Partyactivists, talk-show pundits and partisan rabble-rousers.

Another aspect of elections are those areas of the country whereelected leaders are entrenched and safe from any challenge from theopposition party.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, represents ahighly liberal, left-wing section of San Francisco. No amount ofnational right-wing sentiment for change is going to threaten herreturn to office.

The base that put her into the speaker’s position, however, can bechallenged and her influence potentially weakened. By bringingabout enough change to remove the Democratic majority, motivatedvoters may be able to achieve the difference they have been seeking- provided Republicans get the message they have beenpreaching.

That is why contests such as the one for Mississippi’s 1st Districtseat, currently held by Democratic first-term U.S. Rep. TravisChilders, are being so scrutinized this year. Those districts, andstates where U.S. senators are being elected, are the realbattlegrounds in the fight for control of Congress.

Success on the part of the anti-incumbent, anti-establishmentmovement in the wrong areas, combined with the assured re-electionof entrenched office-holders, could have the opposite of thedesired effect. In that instance, new representatives or senatorswould have little seniority or influence and returningoffice-holders will have grown even more powerful in their abilityto carry our their goals – even though they may run counter to thesentiments of the nation at large.

In this year’s elections, the first of which will be held June 1 inMississippi, careful political analysis must be mixed with theemotions that are motivating people to take a renewed interest ingovernment. Partisan motivations aside, good intentions must not beallowed to bring about bad results.