Two term Senator Bob Bennett of Utah lost out on his bid for re-election Saturday. During a tearful concession speech he alluded to the poisonous atmosphere of the political times. Across the country the mark of a new wave of conservatism is taking root. The current meme in the national press is the claim that Bob Bennett is the first causality of the new wave.
This is wrong, as is usually the case when the media tries to describe anything conservative in this country. The first causalities of the Tea Party movement and a new wave of Americans demanding fiscal conservatism, not just social conservatism, were felt in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts earlier in this year. The problem with Bennett is that he was part of the group that justifies bad votes by claiming they know best. Even during the concession speech Bennett claimed he would cast the same votes - clearly he still doesn't understand the message.
A quote from George Will on ABC's Sunday show:
This is an anti-Washington year. How do you get more Washington than a three-term senator who occupies the seat once held by his father, a four-term senator, who before that worked on the Senate staff and then as a lobbyist in Washington? He's a wonderful man and a terrific Senator. But the fact is, he's going against terrific head-winds this year and he cast three votes: TARP, stimulus and an individual mandate for health care. Now, you might like one, two or all three of those, but being opposed to them is not outside the mainstream of American political argument.
Yes, this is an anti-Washington year. Bennett's fatal mistake was voting for the stimulus when clearly the public outcry as the Tea Party took to the streets in bigger and bigger protests told all of the elected officials not to vote for it. Then, if he was forgiven for not grasping the public outrage right away, he should have gotten the message after last summer's town halls and protests against Obamacare. By working with Democrats to craft together an alternative but agreeing to leave in the individual mandate shows he is clueless.
There is potential for the Tea Party movement to bring in too many candidates with no experience or firm grasp of crafting public policy. To run simply to boot out the incumbents is not productive if the incumbent is a worthy candidate for re-election. Time will tell soon enough if this will be the case. In the meantime, Bennett is the poster boy today. Maybe he grew too comfortable in office. Maybe he arrogantly did not take seriously the will of the people he served. This is the problem with those who do not know when to step aside.
Bennett originally said he would be a two term Senator, should he be entrusted by the voters with office. He broke that promise and ran for a third term. He should have quit when he was ahead.