Ted Kennedy is probably the perfect incumbent politician. Never mind the scandals, the personal problems, the body in the water, the high unfavorable rating. Kennedy survives by doling out tax dollars to special interest groups who in turn dole out big dollars to Kennedy’s campaign coffers. It helps to have the Kennedy name, of course, and to be the patriarch of America’s only almost-royal family. But what’s good for friends of monarchy is bad for friends of democracy.
Even in 1994, when scandal lured a challenger with deep pockets of his own, Kennedy won handily with 58 percent of the vote. Of course, Massachusetts is a Democratic stronghold. But ask yourself: why this particular Democrat, all the time, decade after decade, no matter his flaws? This year, Kennedy has no competition to speak of. Credible challengers are scared off by the sheer weight of incumbency. Kennedy has raised $5.8 million for his reelection campaign, spent $2.7 million, and has more than $4 million in the bank (some of that left over from previous campaigning). His three opponents haven’t got half a million between them.
The story is not unique. In Massachusetts alone, 5 out of 10 House incumbents face no significant opposition. Too often, the major parties just don’t bother to field a candidate when the incumbent decides to run again. And so the incumbents don’t run, they walk, to unchallenged victory. It’s time for term limits.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.