The political winds this year are certainly swirling and blowing hard in certain directions. It is an interesting primary season in that several incumbents are in a peculiar position of losing before the ultimate November election. Time will still tell what will be the final shift, but right now it is at 50-50 in the results.
In Indiana, Dan Coates won the Republican primary, turning back any Tea Party insurgency. Dan was the party establishment candidate. In Utah, Republican Senator Bob Bennett lost his bid to compete in the Utah Republican primary.
The Democrats are experiencing similar possible changes in the primaries. In Arkansas, Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln is facing a tough primary bid. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Senator Arlen Specter is facing a tough primary election as well.
These are just a few snapshot examples. There are many others which will unfold over the next few weeks.
Some of the reason behind the strong challenges in the primary elections is who voted for the bailout or maybe supported President Obama’s economic policies too much. What happened with Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida can be attributed partly to his support of Obama’s initial plans.
In 2008, when the bailout was considered and voted on, there was a great deal of uncertainty in the economy. This last sentence can be viewed as a great understatement. There was, and still is, fear in our markets and economy. Uncertainty in economics is rarely a good thing.
An argument can be made that these politicians made the decision to support the bailout and other economic plans to try to calm the markets and the economy. It was stated often that we were in uncharted waters, so doing nothing did not seem like a solid alternative to many. Consequently, some of the politicians facing tough primary battles made the decision to spend a great deal of taxpayer money with the objective of trying to settle the uncertainty and facilitate some positive traction in the economy.
On the other side, an argument can be made that in the uncertain times staying true to core economic principles may have been the preferred course of action. It takes a longer view of our economy, both in letting the market work some bad things out and not spending ourselves into a bigger deficit hole later on. Essentially, it may be more pain at the time of the crisis, but less pain potentially later on.
It comes down to making decisions for political convenience or expediency versus making decisions based on core principles.
Too often in politics, political convenience is the road most often taken. Charlie Crist did this, as did Arlen Specter. Gov. Crist made the decision to stop education reform in order to bolster his Independent bid in the Florida Senate Race. Sen. Specter made the decision to switch political parties when it looked like he would face a tough Republican primary bid. It would be very fitting for him to lose in a Democrat primary now.
The point is that the politicians who voted for the bailout would argue it was a tough decision to make, but something had to be done. The more challenging decision would have been to stay centered on core economic principles and not vote for it. At some point, we will need to reconcile our economic mistakes, rather than opening new ones later on or prolonging the time when the really tough decisions will need to be made.
The winds blowing in the primaries seem to indicate that having more backbone and less wavering is preferred. The lesson for us all is that, in tough times, don’t ignore your core principles for the sake of convenience or just doing something to do something. Lean on your principles to guide you in making the best decisions possible. If a decision made is just delaying the real decision to a later time, then it may be just for convenience and not based on principles. If a decision made is based on core principles, then there may be some initial tough times to weather, but a stronger direction established for the longer term.
This may be the lesson learned out of this primary election cycle.