Saturday, January 7, 2012


A strange claim made the rounds just over a year ago in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Made by incumbents, the argument asserted many candidates running for the first time were “not qualified” for office. Since this argument may well resurface with Tea party supported candidates later this year, I think it worth analyzing. The question is: what qualifies a person to be a Congressman?

We already have incumbents sitting on finance committees who have no background in accounting, economics, or finance. We already have Congressmen working on committees impacting the troops or American foreign policy who have not previously studied world history, military theory, diplomacy, or even been overseas. We have Congressmen who blithely claim their actions are constitutional without benefit of a law degree or deep knowledge of Constitutional theory or history. We have members who micromanage healthcare decisions for the American public who have neither medical degrees nor published papers in the healthcare economics literature.  So where is this necessity for experience when so many of the incumbents seems personally satisfied with on-the-job training?
How much experience does one need to vote on bills without reading them, as most sitting members do? 
In 2010, throughout the country, dozens of anti-incumbent ads talked about Democratic incumbents who “vote 99% of the time with Nancy Pelosi.” How much experience is required to simply do what one is told? The same 99% figure won’t be used with regard to current House Speaker, John Boehner, since the Tea Party GOP freshmen are, for the first time in a long time, standing up even to their own party structure. Many Americans think that is a good thing, but it is likely harmed by “experience,” and certainly experience is not a pre-requisite.
Might a principled commitment to less government substitute for experience? After all, one does not need to be an expert in the automotive industry to determine the Constitution affords no grounds for the government to run it.
It was argued last cycle in Delaware we just can’t vote for someone who claims she was once a witch. Yet for years we’ve voted for incumbents who seem to think they are wizards…