In light of Arlen Specter's party switch, Rachel Maddow had former Rhode Island GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee on her show last night to discuss political moderation and contested primaries. During the interview, Chafee (perhaps inadvertently) articulated a very crass sense of entitlement that courses through our political Establishment:
"...the tremendously successful fundraising juggernaut that pours the money into these primary races against moderate Republicans in particular. I saw it happen to me in 2006, largely responsible for my loss in the general election...this is America, anybody can run for office. It's the money that pours in that really makes these primaries destructive...Primaries run-up your negatives and they cost you money."
While I'm not defending the ideology of the right-wing Club for Growth that helps raise money for conservative primary challengers, I am saying that Chafee's comments are gross. He's pretty clearly saying that incumbent lawmakers and other cornoated frontrunners shouldn't have to face primaries - and if they do have to face them, those primary challengers are doing something wrong for having the nerve to be well-financed.
Remember, Chafee is not only a guy who had his senate seat handed to him by his father,* he is actually complaining about his supposedly Big Money primary challenge in 2006, despite his having outspent that primary challenger by more than 2-to-1. So what he's really saying is that he believes what makes primaries "really destructive" is money "pouring in" specifically to challenger candidates, but supposedly, it's not "really destructive" or bad if an incumbent like him "pours in" enough D.C. cash to grossly outspend and crush all primary challengers.
That is the definition of entitlement.
Sirota has it absolutely right. The politicos talk a big game about the "evils" of entitlements and how they inexorably push a closer and closer to a *gasp* "Socialist Nation" ('cuz, you know, the Danes are just miserable about their Socialist Democracy)--Damn those Welfare Queens and Freeloading Seniors! They're dragging the country down....aren't they?
Well, frankly, no. What's dragging this country down is this insular notion within the Beltway that those on the inside are entitled to be there and those of us outside should just not worry our little heads about the sophisticated and complicated world of Washingtonian politics. You silly little voters--it doesn't matter that you wanted Ned Lamont as the Democratic candidate in Connecticut or that Arlen Specter couldn't survive a Republican primary challenge. They BELONG in Washington, and if it involves changing the rules of the game, then we should all be grateful that they do it to stay where they absolutely should be.
Honestly, it's sickening. There's nothing Democratic or democratic about these moves. But now that those insiders have decided to flip off us voters, I think it's time we outsiders show them whose boss. We absolutely should mount a progressive primary challenger to Arlen Specter. And moreover, I think we need to take a MUCH closer look at the so-called leadership in Congress. Reid -- in theory -- has the fabled 60 votes he wants. Now I want to see some leadership. In an email I received from someone who has worked hard for the Democratic Party:
It is Harry Reid's responsibility to pass a Democratic agenda. We can measure Spector's performance in this case. But the real thing we need to measure is the amount of insistence and control that Harry Reid exerts as Majority Leader.
We have not had a filibuster proof Senate for more than 30 years...And without checking my history, the 2 times we had that kind of majority in the Senate, have been times of remarkable progressive achievements.
It is his responsibility. He should stop complaineing and deferring to their delicate sensibilities and start acting like a leader who has a historic oppurtunity before him. He shouldn't blow it.
What happens with Spector and others in the future is in Harry Reid's court.
No one is entitled to be in Congress. And I think it's time we reminded them of that.