The ‘anti-incumbent’ canard — 2010 is something else 

My 11th grade American History teacher was a good teacher and a total liberal. The day after the 1994 elections, she mumbled something about “anti-incumbent fever.” I went home and checked the newspaper, and confirmed that every single Republican senator and House member seeking reelection had won that day. The only Republican incumbent to lose in 1994 was liberal Republican David Levy who lost his primary to conservative Daniel Frisa.

We’ve got the same canard these days. The press is talking about an “anti-incumbent” year. You see this descriptor in the L.A. Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Agence France Presse, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many more.

But are any Republican congressmen trailing in the polls? In the House, it’s only Anh Cao in New Orleans and Charles Djou in Hawaii, both of whom won seats they had no business winning. In the Senate, Richard Burr of North Carolina is the only Republican incumbent who is even vaguely in trouble right now.

And what sort of incumbent Republicans lost their primaries? Bennett and Murkowski — two moderates enmeshed in the GOP establishment. On the D side, Arlen Specter lost and Blanche Lincoln almost did. David Vitter, who has been caught up with prostitutes, is the only conservative Republican who was supposedly challenged, but he overwhelmingly won.

So, “anti-incumbent” is the wrong word. This year is generally anti-Democrat, anti-establishment, and anti-middle-of-the-road.

(This post was inspired by a Steve Hayes tweet.)

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Timothy P. Carney

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