With this last election, 87 percent of House incumbents who chose to run for re-election got re-elected.
That’s low by modern standards. In fact, it’s the lowest since 1970, which garnered 85 percent rates for incumbents.
But it’s high by older standards. Eric O’Keefe, of the Sam Adams Alliance, says that the re-election rate may be low today but remains higher “than every election of the 19th century.”
Something changed. Individual career politicians gained the upper hand.
On the brighter side, it’s worth noting that if you include “voluntary retirement” in current figures, the turnover rate was much higher. Forty-five open House seats saw 16 flips of party affiliation, all but one going from Democrat to Republican. This leads Doug Mataconis to figure the retention rate at 64 percent. (Still, in the 19th century, that same rate averaged to under 60 percent.)
Of course, many of our recent “voluntary retirees” may have seen the writing on the wall, preferring to bow out with more dignity than an electoral trouncing would allow.
Credit this to an exceptional frisson amongst the voting public, born of anger and disgust at the political class’s habitual over-spending and general foolishness.
It remains to be seen whether this acuity of citizen focus can alone spur continued turnover and real change. It seems unlikely, which is why I’ve long supported term limits.
But, whatever the source, real change is necessary. And the current turnover, welcome.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.