Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why Richard Pombo chaps my hide

I apologize for my last few days' worth of posts; they have mostly centered on me telling you that Richard Pombo is a useless Congressman. He's dangerous. He's corrupt. He's a liar. He distorts the record.

He really chaps my hide.

Let me explain a few things. I wholeheartedly am against term limits. I believe them to be the lazy and stupid way to effect change. The voting public decided that they'd be a great idea quite a few years ago here in California. I believe them to be a horrible mistake.

Here's why. Good politicians are kicked out of office prematurely. Bad ones, too (this is good, but redundant). The good ones are usually so turned off by their experience that they just decide to leave politics altogether. The bad ones run for a higher office. It's a natural progression. Their names are known, and name recognition is the single most important thing in winning an election. I am confident that when Joe Citizen goes to the polls, he may not know the entire ballot. Like in school, during exams, he guesses at an answer when he doesn't know who or what he wants to vote for.

Thus, when he sees a name he recognizes, he votes for it.

Now, I used to believe, and still want to believe, that the voting public is made up of rational, thinking, considerate folks.

But the past few election cycles have led me to believe differently.

How can you explain George Bush's terrible approval ratings? His policies and actions haven't changed for 6 years running. He didn't change. The voting public's perception has surely changed. But nothing about the elected official nor his stance, action, or policies have changed. But it's these same people, for the most part, who voted for Bush but who are now suddenly upset with him. It simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. You knew from the first term the type of President he was. He hasn't changed!

Nevertheless, I still believe that term limits are a bad idea. The President is limited to 2, 4-year terms. This 'term limit' was imposed after FDR ran, and won, 4 times. I guess people thought that such a run killed him. God forbid that a President die in office doing a great job. If the people want to re-elect somebody 40 times, I have no issues with that.

However, there are problems with this. It's nearly impossible to defeat an incumbent. Rarely is it ever done. At the Presidential level, the last time it happened was in '92 when Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush, who had won the '88 election after having been Vice President from 1981-89. Before that, who lost it?

On a percentage basis, the frequency is very low. At the federal level, the percentage is somewhere north of 90%. At the local level, the odds are better for new challengers, though they still face the same challenges. As Guy Molyneux puts it,
Elections are fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent.
Challengers face the uphill battle of lesser name recognition, lesser ability to raise money, and the prospect that they really don't matter to the voting public. Rather, the voting public simply decides whether they like the incumbent. If they do, it doesn't really matter how the challenger stacks up against the incumbent. If they don't like the incumbent, then they have to decide how the challenger matches up against the incumbent. The challenger still might lose (read: most likely will lose) because he, in many cases, doesn't have a record to compare to the incumbent's.

The biggest factor in all this is money. Incumbents have an innate ability to raise significantly more funds than challengers. A lot of it has to do with name recognition. But it also has to do with the fact that incumbents are in positions of power and their influence can be bought. "Do me a favor and I will give you money" is the implicit idea. Think it doesn't happen? Wake up! It happens every day. It doesn't take scandals involving Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, or Bob Ney to tell you this. Just look at all the pork inserted into unrelated bills. Somebody's paying somebody!

The voting public certainly has the ability to vote for challengers. But, overwhemingly, they don't.

This is why it's especially important to get people who are "on the fence" about an office to look at a) the challenger's qualities and b) the incumbent's record.

It is here where Richard Pombo fails. He is partisan. He is connected to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff (he's taken $37000 from Abromoff). He wants to repeal some of the most critical pieces of the Endangered Species Act. He wants the federal government to pay land owners who cannot develop their land millions of dollars, effectively bankrupting the federal agency responsible for payment. He wants to build a federal highway that runs through his and his family's property and be paid millions more than it's worth. He's voted against vital stem-cell research. He's got ties to Indian casinos and the shenanigans involving the Northern Mariana Islands. He pays his family to "consult" him (his wife gets $3000 per month for unspecified services). His pay has risen $40,000 since elected. Has yours?

Just google Pombo. Or, better yet, look him up on Wikipedia. There's enough of a shoddy record on him that he should lose on his record alone. A farm animal should be able to beat him.

But because the voting public is lazy, stupid, or both, he will be re-elected, even if Jesus himself were running against him. Here are some links for those of you who want to learn more about Pombo, McNerney, and the race for the 11th District of California.

Contra Costa Times
Say No to Pombo
Richard Pombo's Official Site
Jerry McNerney's Official Site