Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Incumbents vs. the Party

Arlen Specter:
I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
Few statements better crystalize the tension between parties and the people they put in office. Incumbents are hard to control. They develop their own constituencies, their own funding sources. Sometimes the party can actually topple them with a primary challenger. Sometimes they can keep an incumbent loyal just by threatening a primary -- incumbents don't want to work that hard to keep their jobs. But there are limits to what you can do, particularly when the incumbent has such a devoted constituency that is so antithetical to the party's members.


Kim Dionne said...

Few statements better crystalize the tension between parties and the people they put in office.or, more importantly, the people they keep/take out of office. did CA republicans really think bill simon was going to win the general election for governor? and what message are local party leaders trying to send by stiff-arming the guys that will win the seat, instead supporting a more extreme candidate who eventually loses?

i'm trying to think of this as some iterated game... but it still looks like cutting off noses to me.

Seth Masket said...

Kim, I think these party guys really do think of it as an iterated game. The Orange County folks I spoke to kept pointing out that positions branded as "extreme" (pro-life, pro-gun) were embraced by Ronald Reagan as he won California and the presidency. So they'd rather maintain their ideological purity and wait for the next Reagan to come along than moderate so that some empty suit can get elected.