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As Long as We Remember...

November 19, 2003

“Divine Right Of Succession?”

Alan Imhoff

Recently an article was printed in a local newspaper about the interesting challenge in the Republican Party for the 6th Congressional District. The party faithful line up for the incumbent, while another member of the GOP dares to challenge the individual who has held the seat for nearly 11 years.

The expected charges and counter-charges ensued, indicating what has become a traditional, expensive, knock ‘em down fight. Each side claiming they are ________. You can fill in the blank.

While all of this has been experienced before in countless races, somehow it appears to be new; that splits will occur in the GOP, the world will come to an end, etc., etc.

But what really intrigued me was a statement attributed to the campaign manager of the incumbent that appears to border on an arrogant display of “rights.”

As written in the newspaper article, the campaign manager was to have stated that the incumbent “…has given no indication he is ready to be pushed aside.” Further the article states that the incumbent “…would prefer to choose his own successor.”

Then comes this quote attributed to the campaign manager: “He’s going to be the one who decides when he leaves and we are not going to be pushed out by some climber looking for the next political offer.”

Excuse me!

Since when does any living politician in office get to decide who succeeds him or her?

In this democracy I thought we still lived under an election process that gives everyone running for office an equal chance to win, or lose, a decision made by those of us who choose to exercise their right to vote.

Nowhere can I find a “right” to choose one’s own successor written into the Constitution. The election process has been set up for anyone to run for office provided they meet all the established qualifications for that office and file the appropriate paperwork.

This basic premise has stood us well for over 200 years. Yes, there have been changes, and, yes, there are inequities with fund raising, media coverage and all the other stuff we have allowed to occur, but a basic fundamental right of every citizen is the opportunity to run for elective office. Not pre-ordained succession.

One of the reasons our forefathers fought a war in 1776 was to get away from the “divine right of kings.” Have we allowed instead the “divine right of incumbents?”

The challenger in this race has every right to file the paperwork as long as he meets the requirements for office and follows the campaign laws.

Everyone running for office must demonstrate to the electorate why they should remain in office as an incumbent or why as an individual seeking office they are the better choice.

It is up to us, the electorate, to decide who wins that office by casting a ballot for our choice.

No one should ever presume they have “succession privileges” to name a person to “take over” when the incumbent decides to vacate office. The electorate puts people in office and it can also put them out.

As a people we have become very lazy in exercising our right to vote and, as such, it may be one of the reasons incumbents have come to assume this “right of succession.” Maybe it is time to send some reminders to all those in office just who the boss is. They are not called public servants for nothing.

While the Founding Fathers never envisioned our election process as it is today, they did understand that the best way to elect was through debate, to explain what one was running for, to espouse certain beliefs. They had their share of “dirty” tricks and smear tactics in the press, but it was the public debate, the forums where the voters could get to know the candidates that stand out yet today as the best means to elect someone you believe in.

I welcome the opportunity to hear both candidates (for now) as they begin their public debates and attend the forums where we can hear them and see them as they try to convince us to stay the course or to bring a change to the office.

I am sure the process will be overwhelmed with campaign fundraisers and expenditures that will far exceed anything else done before. This will all be done by March of next year. Then there will be another eight long months as the GOP winner will face a Democratic opponent.

I wish them both a good campaign, I urge them to tell us why we should vote for them and I would hope they could do it with as little “down and dirty” as possible.

For the record, I cannot vote for either as I am in the minority party in this county these days. So I trust my Republican friends will sift through all the rhetoric and elect their best choice.

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