One of the most interesting themes this campaign season has been the voter’s rejection of national political influence. Primary contestants with D.C. bona fides were soundly rejected in favor of regional powerhouses, no-name pols and local business people. Republicans may have been successful at nationalizing the issues this midterm so the politics may not be local, but the candidates sure are.
Just ask Sue Lowden. The former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman was the singular favorite to be the nominee to face Sen. Harry Reid on November 2nd. Sure, there were rumblings that the conservative firebrand and state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle would be a contender, but her voting record was so atypical for a traditional Senatorial nominee that she was not taken seriously.
Angle’s primary victory was as lamented by Democrats as by Republicans. Democrats saw a Republican party pulling to the right. While they delighted at what would be their increased electoral chances as a result of the polarization of the opposition party, it was a troubling sign for the future of the national discourse. Establishment Republicans were just as nervous. Many believed they had ceded the race to an ideologue that could not win a state-wide election in any state, let alone a purple one like Nevada. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the electorate did not share the woes of the political class. They, rightly, saw this movement as revitalizing. For the average voter, the rejuvenation of the patrician politician from humble origins projected to greatness, at least on the conceptual level, was not a condition to lament.
If that example does not suffice, go ask Sen. Bob Bennett. The Utah senator had been in office for the better part of a generation when he was unseated in a primary convention, later reaffirmed by Utah’s primary electorate. Charlie Crist might tell you the same thing. The popular Florida governor and contender for the Vice Presidential nomination in 2008 has been subject to a stunning reversal of fates. Political missteps, like running against his party and trading on personality alone, in any normal year may not have been deal breakers. This year, they were.
The list of the anointed that have fallen before this year’s primary electorate are numerous: Connecticut’s Rob Simmons, or Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, California’s Rep. Tom Campbell or New Jersey businesswoman and publisher Diane Gooch – the list goes on. Experience in politics doesn’t count against the candidate necessarily, Sharron Angle is an accomplished legislator; Marco Rubio is the speaker of the Florida House. However, any candidate that is tainted by the toxicity of the national political environment has been fighting a serious head wind this year.
The open primary allows for a year like this. No other Western democracy places that level of faith in its electorate. This process is uniquely American; even if the candidates it produces are at times lamentable, the condition is to be celebrated.
The voters have not elected to change the system but its participants. It is not a rejection of American politics but a rejection of its current class of politicians.
If that is not a revolution, what is?
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org