Friday, November 10, 2006

Lack of Competitive Races a Good Thing?

The stereotype of the cynical journalist does not apply to the writer of an editorial in today's The Tennessean, who must have been humming Kumbaya while writing the piece. Praising the mostly "uneventful" races for seats in the state legislature, the editorial states the following:

The legislative races, along with the governor's contest, would seem to indicate that Tennesseans are content with the work of the Tennessee lawmakers. That's a tribute to the leadership of Bredesen and the overall fiscal discipline the legislature has shown recently....

And it would appear voters feel more secure about ethics in the legislature. Corruption was a major theme in the national election picture, but the General Assembly may have put the Operation Tennessee Waltz scandal to rest politically.

Well, maybe. Perhaps the writer has forgotten that Tennesseans almost never turn out an incumbent governor, even during tumultuous times. In addition, the lack of turnover in state races probably has little to do with voter satisfaction with the work and ethics of legislators. It is more reflective of the way that legislators have successfully chosen their voters through gerrymandering and otherwise used the powers of incumbency for political advantage.

Sometimes, a lack of change at election time can be the result of satisfaction with the present leadership. However, in a democracy, the lack of competitive races and vigorous debate may often be a cause for concern, not celebration.

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