Washington Watch: Voters, politicians prove Mencken right

The happiest outcome of this election will be an end to the tsunami of emails, phone calls, flyers and attack ads.

October 29, 2014 23:40
4 minute read.
US Capitol

The US Capitol building in Washington.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” The 2014 campaign that climaxes next Tuesday shows that may be even more true today than it was nearly 90 years ago when he first said it.

I wonder why voters don’t stop to ask themselves why anyone would want to spend tens of millions of dollars – often including some of their own – to get a job that pays $174,000 a year in a city they say they despise to be part of a government they claim to detest.

And why those voters who hold the Congress in such low repute still reelect over 90 percent of the same bums they’ve been saying they want to toss out, for good reason in many cases.

Alaska’s lone congressman, Don Young, the man responsible for the infamous Bridge to Nowhere boondoggle, was asked by a student at a high school assembly last week why he opposed same sex marriage.

“What do you get when you have two bulls having sex? A whole lot of bull.”

That could also describe the 81-year-old Republican.

Young went on to tell the students that a classmate’s recent suicide was caused by a lack of community support. When challenged by a student, Young reportedly called him a “smartass.”

The tragedy is this old crank will probably get reelected, which says more about his constituents than about him.

Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes proved that the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted when she refused to say whether she’d voted for President Barack Obama two years ago. There were so many good answers, but she managed to pick the worst one, and it led the Democrats to cut back funding for someone who until then had a good chance to be the party’s 2014 hero by knocking off Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The race is still a toss-up, though.

Joni Ernst the Republican candidate for an open senate seat in Iowa, boasted of her hog-castrating prowess and told an NRA gathering that carries her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 mm.” everywhere, and ran an ad showing her firing her gun and vowing to “unload” on Obamacare.

In the beware-of-your-friends category, Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day went to Wisconsin to campaign for Gov. Scott Walker and told her audience, “I don’t want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters, but some of them might not be as sharp as a knife.”

Democrats have developed a very strong ground game of getting their base to the polls, and Republicans have responded with a blocking strategy. Voted fraud is virtually non-existent across the country but you couldn’t tell by the way Republicans are talking and trying to keep voters away with such gimmicks as demanding photo IDs and limiting hours and locations of polling stations.

A report by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office found that voter ID laws have a greater impact on African Americans and younger voters than on any other racial and age groups, The Washington Post reported. Little wonder that the US Supreme Court’s most conservative justices are the strongest supporters of these controversial laws.

It is not protection against fraud but protection against those not likely to vote Republican. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made that abundantly clear the other day when he asked a Chamber of Commerce group, “Would you rather have [Republican] Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or [Democrat] Charlie Crist?” It’s about “what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up” for the 2016 election, he explained.

White evangelical Christians are a critical base for the GOP; they’re expected to turn out in larger numbers than any other voting group this fall, enhancing their influence in the next Congress. They can be especially important in boosting Republican senate candidates in Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Kentucky.

The Jewish vote will not be critical in this election, with a possible exception of the Florida governor’s race and a handful of House races. Florida is one of the nastiest, closest and most expensive contests in the country. It also set a new standard for stupid when the incumbent Scott refused to appear on stage for a scheduled debate with his opponent because Crist had brought a small fan.

State Senator Lee Zeldin is running in New York’s first district on Long Island and raising money among Jews across the country in support of his declared goal of replacing ex-Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia) as the lone Jewish Republican in the House. He has the backing of the Conservative Political Action Committee against Rep. Tim Bishop, who is expected to win a seventh term.

The net Jewish population of the 114th Congress will be at least three fewer than the one now ending. Cantor, the highest ranking Jew in Congressional history, who had tried to position himself as a champion of the tea partiers, was beaten in his primary by someone even more conservative. Two leading Jewish Democrats are retiring: Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and 20-term Rep. Henry Waxman of California, top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Two Jewish House Democrats are facing strong challenges – Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois and Steve Cohen of Tennessee – but are expected to survive. In Northern Virginia, Micah Edmond, an African-American convert to Judaism, is running a long-shot campaign on the Republican ticket to replace retiring Democrat Jim Moran, who won’t be missed by any friend of Israel.

The happiest outcome of this election will be an end to the tsunami of emails, phone calls, flyers and attack ads from all those anxious and panicked politicians who could win if only I’d send them $3 before the midnight deadline.

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