In my column last week, I did the impossible. Based on the reader mail I received, I realize that I underestimated the contempt and rage that has built up in the average citizen toward today's elected officials.
A week ago I wrote that Congress, under the heavy-handed direction of the White House, passed two pork-laden energy and transportation bills.
And I predicted that the worst is yet to come when Congress returns in September. The Senate, again with behind the scenes maneuvering by President Bush, is poised to deliver a blow to the working stiff by passing guest worker/amnesty legislation.
The response my column generated was the most intense of any I have ever received. Reader M.M. wrote: "Bush seems determined to make a substantial number of people (much greater than his margin of victory) who voted for him regret it."
And from J.C. in Oklahoma: "I have written numerous letters of complaint to all of my Representatives and Senators, and all I ever get in return is a misleading, falsified, stereotypical, uneducated canned speech! It is unbelievable that our elected officials do not know American History, understand the Constitution, or have the spine to do their job! My friends and everyone in our entire family, which is very large, feel the same as I do even though some of us are Republicans and some are Democrats. …
"We need to secure our borders. Our borders are realâ! We have laws in place to deal with immigration! It is a crime for office holders to ignore their jobs! Why hasn't someone filed lawsuits against these people? We need to vote and replace each and every elected official who has not pursued their job description as mandated by law."
A hat-tip to J.C. for striking the note I want to emphasize today.
For all the carping that goes on, invariably on Election Day the same old disappointing candidates are re-elected. So if you voted for an incumbent in 2004 -- in the San Joaquin Valley that would mean Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Richard Pombo and President Bush -- then you haven't earned the right to complain.
You're choices won; you got what you wanted.
When will we ever learn? Why sign up, election cycle after election cycle, to take another pounding from the same political hacks?
Voters refuse to recognize the strength they themselves wield when they use their vote as a protest weapon. But instead of getting behind the challenger, the electorate invariably rationalizes its support for the incumbent by saying that they can't vote for a Democrat (or Republican) or they don't like the challenger's position on guns, education, abortion, the death penalty, gays, the environment or immigration.
That's foolish and self-destructive.
As an example of what I mean, let's take a look at the 1992 presidential election where Texas billionaire and Independent Ross Perot, had he won, might have made a difference to the U.S. in terms of jobs, education and immigration.
Perot was certainly a breath of fresh air on the political scene. He unhesitatingly criticized affirmative action, big business (specifically General Motors) the first Iraq War and based on his personal experiences in Texas, public education.
Recall that Perot argued against the North America Free Trade Agreement insisting, correctly as it turned out, that NAFTA would result in fewer American jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Perot also predicted, again accurately, that NAFTA would encourage illegal immigration. And, in fact, the numbers of illegal aliens in the U.S. nearly doubled since NAFTA was enacted 10 years ago.
Although Perot got 19 million votes in the general election, he turned out to be his own worst enemy by briefly dropping out of the race.
My position is cut and dried: I have witnessed time and again the incumbent's act. I don't like it. I'll gamble on the unknown with the hope that a viable and responsive third party will one day soon evolve.
Election 2006 should be fertile ground for challengers, especially frank talking Perot-type candidates.
Don Goldwater, Barry's nephew, has announced that he will run for Arizona governor against Janet Napolitano.
And Westchester, N.Y., District Attorney Jeanine Pirro will be taking on Hillary Clinton in New York.
A man who should know, Newt Gingrich, thinks that the Republicans are in for a rough ride in 2006.
Republicans, said Gingrich, "need to do some very serious planning and not just assume that everything is going to be automatically okay."
The misconception is that challengers lose because incumbents have more money, more endorsements and better name recognition. While that is unquestionably true, the real reason challengers lose is because you don't vote for them.
Here's my pledge; feel free to adopt it as your own: "If you are holding office, I vow to do everything humanly possible to oust you from office."
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.