January 3, 2006

Not Sweating Even a Little

Hatched by Dafydd

I may be the only person here still very unconvinced that the "Casino Jack" Abramoff scandal is going be a significant factor in November. The ever-industrious Michelle Malkin quotes from the Christian Science Monitor about the fear that is spreading through D.C.:

Political players with ties to Abramoff and his network, who knew the lobbyist was preparing to cut a deal, have been sweating for months. Now they're sweating harder.

I'm sure there are many individual members of Congress who are suffering what Rich Galen calls "projectile sweat." I suspect most of them are actually innocent -- they may have received contributions from Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, but that doesn't mean it was a bribe -- but worry they'll spend their entire campaign fighting false charges of corruption. One or two others may actually have accepted bribes and may be in worse trouble than a tough campaign.

But as an issue to change the face of the Senate and House, or even to cause Republican losses, I think the Abramoff scandal is vastly overrated.

Consider: the point of this scandal is that members of Congress took campaign contributions, then voted the way the contributer wanted as a direct quid pro quo. So let's try a little gedankenexperiment, as Einstein (and probably Rich Galen) would put it... there are 535 members of Congress (435 House, 100 Senate); out of these 535, how many do you think have, at least once in their careers, accepted a campaign contribution and then done something they would not ordinarily have done because of it?

(Cue the "Final Jeopardy" theme....)

If anybody here did not answer "why, all of them, of course," I want to know who it is; I think we should put the person in a museum as the last person in America still not jaded and cynical about Congress.

In other words, all that the Abramoff scandal will do is reconfirm to the American people that Congress is crooked. But the fact that both Republicans and Democrats are involved -- the CSM claims that "Republicans received 64 percent of that money," which implies (by my calculation) that 36% of it went to Democrats -- means that nobody gets an advantage; nobody is going to care that "more money" went to corrupt Republicans than went to corrupt Democrats; ordinary people will simply roll their eyes and sigh. If they think about it at all, they'll conclude that the deciding factor was not that Republicans are innately more corrupt but that they're legislatively more powerful.

(This will become crystal clear when Republicans begin digging into the campaign contributions made by other lobbyists who lean more to the left -- such as lobbyist and former official of the FAA Linda Hall Daschle.)

Every election boils down, in the end, to a contest between two (or occasionally three or four) people; you don't get to have a choice between a named Republican and an unnamed Democratic saint. Unless one of the candidates has actually been charged in the case, the opponent slinging mud will just get mud slung right back, and the mud (deserved or undeserved in both cases) will cancel itself out.

If a particular person gets indicted -- Bob Ney (R-OH), for example, is in a lot of danger -- he will probably resign from Congress to deal with it. Then everything depends upon the governor of the state (Republican Bob Taft, who has his own corruption problems, in the case of Ohio); the governor in each case will name someone of his own party who never took any money from Abramoff, and who will then run as a quasi-incumbent -- but not much of one, since the investigation will take some months -- in the November election.

At that point, what will matter is how safe the seat is: in Bob Ney's case, according to Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics, 2006, Ney has won by over 60% in the last four elections (in 2002, the Democrats didn't even bother to field a nominee against him), and the eighteenth district of Ohio went for George W. Bush by 14% in both 2000 and 2004. This is a safe Republican seat, and the Republican will likely win this year, whether it's a battle-scarred Bob Ney or someone else.

And that is part of the secret: unless there is a confluence of indictment or much greater than run-of-the-mill congressional corruption for a particular incumbent and one of the tiny number of truly competitive seats and a squeaky clean challenger, this sort of financial scandal simply doesn't have much impact. It is very different from a political scandal, like Watergate, that actually calls the ability to govern into question.

Anybody remember the Keating Five? It was one of the biggest scandals to rock Congress in the 1980s. The "five" were Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA), Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), and Sen. Don Riegle (D-MI). The scandal erupted in 1989. Quiz: how many of the Keating Five were defeated in the election following the scandal?

Answer: none, of course. Three chose to retire: Cranston (who was diagnosed with prostate cancer), DeConcini, and Riegle; the two who actually ran for reelection, McCain and Glenn, were both reelected. One could argue that the scandal persuaded the retirees not to run, but that's a tricky case to make.

The House banking scandal broke in early 1992 and ensnared far more members (over 350) than can possibly be caught up in the Abramoff scandal... and a greater percentage were Democrats. In addition, the minority leader was Newt Gingrich, far more dynamic and exciting than is Nancy Pelosi today. And back then, there were also a lot more competitive seats. So what happened in the election that year? The Democrats lost 9 seats in the House -- and gained 1 seat in the Senate, completely in keeping with the typical electoral play in those days.

But in the 1994 election, which hinged not on a scandal but rather on the Republican "Contract With America," as well as the performance of the Clinton White House and the Democratic Congress, the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House and 9 Senate seats.

And of course, the political result of Bill Clinton's impeachment for perjury was that his approval rating skyrocketed in 1998. Yeah... scandal.

I think it's pretty clear which has more impact: a scandal among the incumbent party, or the challenging party having a positive political agenda in line with the voters' own beliefs, with the incumbents having either an out of step agenda -- or no agenda at all.

Today, we have less play; I would be pretty shocked if the Abramoff scandal at its worst affected more than two or three House seats -- and any Senate seats at all.

So relax. Let's get the bad guys; we don't want them anyway, especially if they're Republicans. But don't bite your nails to the quick, worrying that this will cause significant damage to the Republican Party. It may increase the cynicism of the American voter (if that's even possible), which is pretty bad by itself. But neither party is going to come off clean enough to benefit from it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 3, 2006, at the time of 10:12 PM

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The following hissed in response by: krkrjak

As I had posted several days ago that in my opinion as a whole the entire bunch in congress are corrupt. This "Casino Jack" thing just further reinforces that opinion. I don't however believe corruption to be a new phenomenon, just the nature of the beast. What's the old adage, power corrupts, etc.

The above hissed in response by: krkrjak [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2006 11:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

(Cue the "Final Jeopardy" theme....)

Nice...*REAL* Nice!!! Not the tune, but 'Da Point.

It seems that the Left wishes to boil everything down to so-called news with a headline being the only focus of their point.

Whilst knowing that Mother Nature is watching and listening, i can only roll my eyes of flesh in the same direction that She rolls Hers...so to speak.

Expect more new Voters in 2006 to show up, and expect them to Vote Against the Democrat Party...as in not Voting for the Republican Party, but *AGAINST* the Democrat Party.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2006 5:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

For those who are into Predictions...file that last reply of mine under Karmic Predictions.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 4, 2006 5:09 PM

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