Anti-incumbent, pro-party primaries
Mike Allen notes that a Blanche Lincoln loss would make 2010 a banner year for sitting senators bumped off in primaries. We'd be at three -- Bob Bennett, Arlen Specter and Lincoln -- which is more than we've seen since 1980. Though the fact that three primary losses a year is noteworthy says, in some ways, more about the security of incumbents than it does about the passions of 2010.
Still, try to find an ideological through-line in those races. Bennett went down in part because he wasn't conservative enough, but even more because he wasn't partisan enough. Specter managed to effectively lose -- or in the case of the Republican primary, seem certain to lose -- both the Democratic and the Republican primaries because he seemed more loyal to himself than he was to either party. Lincoln is a conservative Democrat facing likely defeat at the hands of a somewhat more populist, and at least implicitly more party-loyal, challenger.
And in case you wanted to say that the American people clearly support populist insurgencies this year, consider that the tea parties are plummeting in popularity. Whatever populist impulse they represented has managed to alienate a majority of the population.
Part of the narrative that's emerged is that these primaries show an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, year. That's right, but it's mixed, incoherently, with pro-party -- which is to say, pro-Washington establishment -- results. The different bases are eliminating politicians who've been insufficiently dedicated to holding their party's line. The result will be much more significant than merely the election of three new senators. Rather, surviving senators will upgrade the threat an unhappy base poses to their reelection and trim their independence accordingly. The moderates and compromisers who are left will stop acting like moderates and compromisers. This election looks, if nothing else, like it's going to be a big step forward in bringing strong party discipline to the Senate.
Photo credit: Danny Johnston/AP.
June 8, 2010; 10:21 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Midterms
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