The victims of party sweeps
The problem with elections in which one party rides a wave is that many exceptional people from the other party get driven from office. When voters want to send a message, they often ignore the individual qualities of the candidates and vote for party. That is a perfectly rational thing to do. But some good folks get left by the wayside.
Thus did the Democratic sweeps in 2006 and 2008 lead to the defeats of two of the most thoughtful moderates in the Republican party, Jim Leach of Iowa and Chris Shays of Connecticut.
Whatever happens this Tuesday, it's clear that a lot of good Democrats will lose -- and by "good," I'm not referring to whether I agree with them or not but simply to the quality of their service. I was especially struck by new polls out this week showing that Reps. Chet Edwards of Texas and John Spratt of North Carolina were in real jeopardy. Both are more conservative than I am, but each would be a real loss to the House.
I've gotten to know Edwards pretty well over the years because we like to talk (and argue) about church-state issues. And I don't think anyone is more devoted to members of the active-duty military than he is. As often as not, when I heard from Edwards it was not so he could talk about himself but so he could pass along observations from the Army captains and majors he has gotten to respect and admire. A few years back he sent me a long letter he had received from an officer who had served in Iraq. It was an exceptionally wise and shrewd analysis of the direction of the war, and I felt compelled to share it with readers. If Edwards does indeed lose, I suspect his defeat will be mourned by many Republicans and not just Democrats -- much as Rep. Mike Castle's Delaware Republican Senate primary defeat bred sadness in both parties.
And John Spratt is an old-fashioned southern gentleman. He also has progressive views on race and a wide and deep understanding of the federal budget. If the next two years will be occupied by deficit reduction, it will be a shame not to have Spratt in the middle of those conversations and debates.
I thus suggest that at the Stewart/Colbert moderates march participants take a moment to think about the defeated Leach, Shays, and Castle and the endangered Edwards and Spratt. Some political moderates are simply split-the-difference sorts of politicians. Others work hard to turn moderation into a serious and substantive worldview.
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