Incumbent Friendly Policy

A lot of folks have questioned why NRA has a policy that’s incumbent friendly. This article pretty much nails the reason:

If 2010 is an “anti-incumbent” election, how can it be that 80 percent of the incumbents will be re-elected?

And as Glenn Reynolds points out:

Though based on the last several decades, an election where only 80 percent of incumbents survive is actually a big deal.

Yes, it is. The reason for an incumbent friendly policy isn’t because we should love incumbents for incumbency sake, but that they have a significantly high likelihood of winning their election, even this year, and that incumbency brings with it seniority, which brings with it the power to drive the agenda of the legislative body. From a lobbying point of view, once you find a friend, the last thing you want to do is toss him.

I’ve never bought into the notion of tossing lawmakers, because, like diapers, they need to be changed often. I’m in favor of tossing lawmakers when they stop serving liberty and start serving themselves. If we got a libertarian majority in Congress this November, I’d want to keep the incumbent re-election rate as high as possible as long as Congress were serving that end. The article points out:

Here’s a valuable piece of historical fact – Prior to the Civil War, it was not unusual for half or more of each new Congress to be freshmen. It was only after World War II that America’s incumbent re-election rate skyrocketed to its present 90+ percent level.

I would argue the primary driving factor behind a high incumbent re-election rate that people are rationally ignorant of politics, and as we’ve expanded the voting franchise, and increasingly consolidated the power of the media into the hands of the few, incumbent re-election rates have gone up. They probably should not be as high as they are, but perhaps the Internet has the potential to balance the media situation out sufficiently, so that better information on just how bad your current legislative critter is has more of a chance to come to the attention of your average Joe who barely pays attention.

In the mean time, NRA’s policy preferring incumbents is the smart thing to do.

8 thoughts on “Incumbent Friendly Policy”

  1. I might agree with you except that the NRA-PVF hasn’t been exactly smart in some of their endorsements.

    They endorsed Alabama State Senator Larry Means (D-Attalla) two days after he was indicted on Federal felony vote buying charges. While he has been pro-gun, someone should have put a hold on that before they issued the endorsement.

    It makes the NRA look either stupid or very jaded when they do something like this.

  2. I’d like to amplify on what I wrote above. I think part of the problem is emblematic of all large bureaucracies – once a decision gets made it is hard to delay or stop its implementation. Bureaucracies are large bumbling creatures that are not agile.

    You see the same thing right now in the VFW. Their VFW-Vote political wing has endorsed a number of candidates who are non-vets because they have promised “pork” for either the VA or the vets. A number of veterans are either burning or returning their VFW membership cards because they are so angry over a veterans organization not endorsing veterans.

    Frankly, I’d like to see the NRA get out of the “endorsement” business and just do ratings or rankings. While it wouldn’t have quite the impact of an endorsement, I think it would let legislators and candidates know we will publicize who are our friends are as well as let the voter know who is their enemy on gun rights. You’d avoid the situation you have in New Mexico where Rep. Harry Teague is endorsed while his opponent, Steve Pearce, who held the seat until he ran for Senate in 2008 and was endorsed by the NRA then and for his earlier House races, was not. Both of them are our friends – why choose between them?

  3. Not endorsing candidates would very seriously reduce their electoral power. There are consequences to an endorsement that go beyond “We endorse this guy.” That enables support from NRA’s electoral machine, which is quite significant. NRA could eliminate endorsements in name only, but that wouldn’t serve much purpose politically.

    What you’re asking, essentially, is that NRA retreat from politics, even if just a bit. I’d rather them look stupid by getting it wrong from time to time, than to have them be irrelevant, or even less relevant.

  4. It’s tough to say when it comes to indictments vs. convictions when issuing endorsements. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit the last day or so because one of the state groups here is relying upon a lawmaker who has multiple indictments for using her office for personal gain and corruption. My first reaction was not good. It’s still not exactly favorable, but I’ll also concede that the woman is still in the Senate. She also still has a shot at keeping her seat based on polling.

    Because of that, the question NRA has to ask – are gun owners better served with her being happy with us or her pissed off if she wins re-election? Considering her opponent – while close – still hasn’t taken the lead according to some late September polls, that’s a fair discussion to have. If she’s going to move our Castle Doctrine through the Senate, isn’t that the issue that’s important?

    In fact, just because we’re a highly corruptible state, she won’t be the only one with a likely NRA endorsement who is facing a trial for corruption charges. There’s another prominent House member in Philadelphia who is under indictment, and it’s not going to be a surprise if he keeps his seat. He’s already held off challengers from his own party who raised the reform flag, so it’s possible he’ll be able to do the same against the Democrat who has never held office before. In previous years, he has held an NRA endorsement. This year, he voted with us on every single Castle Doctrine, even when one of his neighboring GOP House members who has held an endorsement fell off the bandwagon and voted against us. Is NRA better served by keeping it to the issue at hand and recognizing his positive work on our issues rather than the charges that may or may not stick, and may not even have an impact on the election?

    I think when you really pull yourself away and weigh all of those factors, the answer isn’t nearly as clear as it seems when it comes to endorsing indicted candidates.

    Oh, and if you want to know how really messed up we are here in Pennsylvania, NRA has already endorsed the man who brought the indictments – our gubernatorial candidate! :)

  5. I thought we were innocent until proven guilty. And last I checked, an indictment was only an allegation and most certainly was not a conviction.

    But even forgetting that fact, the NRA is basically a one issue organization. It focuses on firearms and the 2nd Amendment and anything else is simply a red herring that distracts it from its core mission of defending the right of Americans to keep and bear arms.

    They would do tremendous harm to their position, our rights, and their political effectiveness, if they were to ever deviate from their singular focus. I’m glad they don’t.

    1. Very good reminder, Countertop. That’s the thing, in all of the indictments/trials that have been held for other lawmakers so far, many of the charges haven’t become convictions. It’s very possible that these folks could win re-election and be found not guilty. Should NRA be expected to punish them even if their peers believe they are innocent and the voters choose to send them back?

      What’s the worst case scenario? An A-rated candidate isn’t endorsed, but an A-rated incumbent with an indictment does get it. The voters decide the incumbent isn’t worth sending back, so they elect the challenger. We now have a new A-rated incumbent who can benefit from the policy. This isn’t really a loss for gun owners.

      The timing issue is also a good point, though I didn’t know enough about the specific race to know anything like that.

  6. Except the means endorsement was made in mid Sept and only reported by the media until after he was indicted.

  7. Regarding incumbaency – one of the worst things the Republican “Class” of ’94 did was voluntarily term-limit themselves. Bu doing so, the (relatively) honest politicians left Congress to the less-honest ones.

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