Mar 14, 2010

Uncontested Races Troubling

Guest Column By Denny Bonavita

So, the Tea Party folks are going to force the national government to change its ways, are they? Hot air. Ditto for screamers in Internet chat rooms, for strident espousers of Second Amendment gun rights, for the people who claim our government is spending us into bankruptcy.

We yak about that, but it's simply lip-flapping. Nobody will change the current system of government, despite all the jaw-jabber. Why do we say that?

Look at who is running for election this year: Mostly, it's incumbents, or former incumbents. In area races for the state House of Representatives, there is not one contested race in the May 18 primary election, according to the filings with the Department of State. Matt Gabler (R), Kathy Rapp (R), Sam Smith (R), Martin Causer (R), Donna Oberlander (R), Bud George (D) are all assured of renomination.

Rapp, Causer and Oberlander are all but assured of re-election. No Democrats filed against them, so there probably won't be any major contests in November, either.
On the federal level, first-term incumbent Glenn Thompson, a Republican, is unopposed in both the primary and in the general election. So is Altoona-area Rep. Bill Shuster.

Sure, incumbent U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter is opposed - but by a current member of the federal Congress in the primary, and by a former member of Congress in the general election. More incumbents.

To hear the critics of government tell it, the state and federal governments are poorly run. But the critics are lip-flappers, only. Otherwise, some would have joined in the campaigns.

It doesn't take a lot of money, either. Gabler won the Republican nomination two years ago on a write-in basis. In our system of government, it is impossible to vote "No," or "None of the above," except in judicial retention elections. We can't vote people out of office if there is no opponent to vote in. Don't blame the incumbents. It isn't their fault if they do not have opponents. That is our fault.

Even the best incumbents benefit from having opponents - for the same reason that we learn something best when we know we have to teach about it. When an incumbent knows that he or she will be called to account on an issue, the incumbent rethinks the issue. Sometimes, the incumbent even changes positions, because the circumstances surrounding the issue have changed.

But that won't happen this year. We just don't care enough about our system of government to help to lead it. So the incumbents can just keep on doing what they have been doing.

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