I am registering as a republican again to remake the local tea party into something Teddy or Ike might recognize. The history of the GOP in Oregon is one of moderate conservatism, which makes the task easier but still not a given based on current primary trends. The one thing I have going in my favor is an inexhaustible supply of facts and figures to bolster my case.
With 85% of the electorate basically tuned out during midterm primary elections, the number of potential recruits is staggering. Republicans (and ex-republicans) are a relatively homogenous group as well, so voter acquisition is much less of a challenge than it might be otherwise. Everything looks ripe for an insurgent campaign to clear away the Tea Party chaff in 2018.
There are 247 Congressional districts just waiting to be snatched from the lackluster grip of a dimwitted republican incumbent. Artisan Politics will be looking at each of those districts until the next midterm in an effort to see who has been entrusted with that power and what they have they done with it (or not done with it) over however many years they have been in office.
Our first district is from my home state of Alaska.
The Bull Moose is nowhere to be found in the Land of the Midnight Sun. America’s 49th state is filled with rugged individualists who were somehow convinced that today’s republican party is the same one they revered as kids. They left the lower forty eight for grander vistas and strict accountability only to find idiocracy personified in their elected House representative.
There has been a single Congressional district in Alaska since 1959. It is the largest congressional district in America by a ridiculous degree and is one of the largest parliamentary constituencies in the world, though still smaller than the massive 890,000 square miles Kalgoorlie that encompasses nearly the entire state of Western Australia.
This massive Alaskan district has been represented by a single man since March 6, 1973. Republican Don Young. Every election cycle I try not to let my head explode. See if you can spot just how out of touch this guy is from the first paragraph of the official biography copied from his website on 12/26/2014:
“Congressman Don Young was re-elected to the 113th Congress in 2012 to serve his 21st term as Alaska’s only Representative to the United States House of Representatives. First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young is today the 1st ranking Republican member and the 4th ranking overall member of the House of Representatives.”
If you noticed the page hadn’t been updated in the month and half since Young was re-elected to a 22nd term, drop a note on the Artisan Politics Facebook page and Like us while you are there.
This is a minor detail to be sure, but the American voter has been so focused on the big picture that they lost sight of their duty to a robust and accountable democracy starting in the district where they live. It isn’t entirely their fault given the way politics are covered by the media and the partisan fashion in which Congress does its job, but it’s ultimately the responsibility of the voters to clean up the mess that has resulted from our inattention to duty.
I am not going to spend a single word dissecting Don Young’s long and checkered career in the House, but Alaskans are aware of his ethical issues and vote the guy through every November because it is a “red” district and the man invariably wins the anemic primaries without a real challenge. No way a republican is going to vote against his own party when the rubber meets the road, so we get a confederacy of dunces in charge of some very important legislation on Capitol Hill.
It wasn’t hard to find this page listing the group of “conservative” men competing to take Don Young’s job as the republican representative from the great state of Alaska: http://www.elections.alaska.gov/ci_pg_cl_2014_prim.php#usr.
Each of the short summaries has a link to more information on the candidates and what they would “change” if they were elected to Congress instead of the incumbent. None of them offer anything substantially different from that being offered by the challenger, so I assume that means most primary voters opt for the devil they know.
The one libertarian in the field comes across as an old school Eisenhower republican, so perhaps he could have been that alternate voice had he registered republican instead. I won’t be analyzing democrats in red districts or republicans in blue districts since it is a waste of time these days, but data is available for curious citizens in those zip codes.
Alaska is a very transparent state when it comes to compiling numbers on voters and how they breakdown by various demographic factors for each election at the following pages: http://www.elections.alaska.gov/vi_vrs.php and http://www.elections.alaska.gov/ei_return.php. The numbers couldn’t be more clear when it comes to outcome versus expectation.
Voters age forty-five and above had an astonishing primary turnout rate of 53.28 percent while those who were forty-four and under averaged only 23.26 percent. Don Young received more primary votes than all non-republican candidates combined. He also had twice as many votes as his three republican challengers combined.
In a state with almost a half a million registered voters, a mere 79,000 decided their legislative fates for the next two years as Don Young once again waltzed into the fait accompli general election the following November where he was reelected to his 22nd term with 51.6% of the vote.