None Of The Above

What are we to make of the recent Democratic primary results, in which unknown candidates — including a current prison inmate — have managed to secure 40 percent or more of the vote in races against President Obama?

In the West Virginia Democratic primary, a Texas convict named Keith Judd won 41 percent of the vote.  In the Arkansas primary, a lawyer named John Wolfe won 40 percent of the vote.  In Oklahoma, a variety of candidates received 43 percent of the vote.  And in yesterday’s Democratic primary in Kentucky, “uncommitted” got 42 percent of the vote. The Democratic primaries in other states have seen similarly significant votes for options other than President Obama.

Pundits have offered a variety of explanations for these curious results.  They speculate that the results might be racism, or strong opposition to gay marriage in states that tend to be culturally conservative.  Others reason that, because President Obama is running unopposed and therefore has long had the nomination sewn up, he isn’t trying to win crushing victories and the only people motivated to vote are those that want to send a message.

Alternatively, we might employ Occam’s Razor and conclude that a number of Democrats are voting against the President simply because they are unhappy with his performance and have decided to show that in a tangible way.  Over history, in many elections for many offices, voters have chosen “none of the above” to tell the powers that be that people who are perfectly willing to fulfill their civic duty by voting are dissatisfied with the crummy choices being presented.

The states that have seen these interesting Democratic primary results are states that have been hard hit by the economy.  It’s not implausible that voters would be fed up — so fed up that they are willing to take time from their normal daily activities, go to the polls, and cast a pure protest vote.  That’s a powerful message, and one that President Obama and his campaign staffers may not be glad to hear.

On Tax Day, Remember The GSA!

All American taxpayers should be grateful this April 15, as we curse and finish our returns and contemplate how much we pay to our federal government:  we have the General Services Administration out there working for us.

You all know the GSA, of course.  Its website describes the GSA as “responsible for improving the government’s workplace by managing assets, delivering maximum value in acquisitions, preserving historic property, and implementing technology solutions.”  To translate: the GSA are the bureaucrats bureaucrats.

The GSA has been in the news lately, but not due to its selfless performance of its crucial bureaucratic mission.  No, the GSA is in the news because the agency spent $822,000 — $822,000 — on its 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas.  That included payments for upscale accommodations, commemorative coins, and $3,200 for a “mind reader,” among other indefensible expenditures.  When an Inspector General’s report uncovered the gross waste, the GSA Administrator resigned.  Now the GSA official charged with organizing the event, who has been subpoenaed to testify about the matter before Congress, has indicated he will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  In short, there’s not just concern about bad judgment — there’s concern that outright criminal conduct may have occurred.

If you look at the GSA website, you’ll find a video of the acting administrator of the GSA, Dan Tangherlini, soberly pledging that the GSA will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and service.  (You’ll also learn that the GSA has its own flag, which appears behind him.  Thank God for that!)  The video is a classic of buzzwords and bureaucratese — other governmental bodies are called “client agencies” and “customers,” and the response to the abuse of the Western Regions Conference talks about rules and “top-down” agency reviews.  In short, the timeless solution to abusive practices in the bureaucracy is more bureaucracy!

Forgive me if I’m not reassured that the same agency that allowed the abuse is recommitted to its end.  The only real solution to waste and abuse in government is to cut back government, period.  Does anyone really think the country would grind to a halt if the GSA budget were reduced to one-third of its current size?

As I sign and send my returns today, I’ll be thinking of the GSA and its careful stewardship of our tax dollars.  And during this campaign season, when we hear candidates for federal offices talk about how “draconian” proposed budget cuts are, and how we need to raise taxes because cutting spending is just too difficult, I’ll think “Remember the GSA!” And then I’ll vote for their opponent.

Sayonara To The Senate

Although everyone will be focusing on the presidential election come 2012, the battle for the majority in the Senate will be at least as interesting.

In 2011, a surprising number of Senators announced they would not run for re-election.  The last was Senator Ben Nelson — the Nebraska Senator who was criticized, here and elsewhere, for shabby politicking in connection with the passage of the “health care reform” legislation.  In all, seven Democratic Senators will be retiring, along with two Republicans.  The retirement decisions make the current Democratic majority in the Senate particularly perilous, because Democrats are defending 23 seats this election cycle, compared to only 10 Republican seats that are up for challenge.

The Washington Post‘s political blog, The Fix, rates the most interesting 2012 Senate races, and one of its top 10 is incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s battle to win reelection against the apparent Republican challenger, State Treasurer Josh Mandel.  Ohio is always a bellwether, and the race between Brown and Mandel may tell us a lot about which way the country is leaning.

One thing is certain:  there will be a number of newcomers in the Senate in 2013.  This will be a good thing, because the current Senate has been an embarrassing, inert body that has virtually no accomplishments to its name.

“Joe The Plumber” Throws His Hat Into The Ring

“Joe the Plumber” is back on the national scene, and this time he is looking for more than his duly allotted 15 minutes of fame.  “Joe” — aka Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher — has filed papers to run for Congress as a Republican in his home district in northern Ohio.

In October 2008, Wurzelbacher was tossing a football with his son in the front yard of his Ohio home when he was touched by the Fickle Finger of Fate.  Democratic candidate Barack Obama was campaigning in the neighborhood and met Wurzelbacher.  Wurzelbacher told Obama he hoped to buy a plumbing business and asked whether Obama’s tax plan would increase his taxes and interfere with the American Dream, and Obama’s lengthy answer said, among other things, that he didn’t want to “punish your success” but that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

The moribund campaign of Republican candidate John McCain seized on Obama’s use of “spread the wealth” and McCain mentioned the exchange with “Joe the Plumber” repeatedly in the final presidential debate, raising Wurzelbacher to national prominence.  “Joe the Plumber” appeared on TV and at McCain campaign events, and the media and Obama’s supporters put Wurzelbacher under a microscope.  Was he a licensed plumber or not?  Did he owe taxes?  State employees even searched Ohio governmental databases for information on Wurzelbacher, resulting in a mini-scandal.

Now, three years later, “Joe the Plumber” has decided to re-enter the spotlight.  He’d better be prepared for searching scrutiny, because he’s likely to receive far more attention than the average, unknown challenger.  Every skeleton in Wurzelbacher’s closet will be rattled a few times before voters get the chance to decide they want “Joe the Plumber” to play “Mr. Fix-It” in Washington, D.C.