About Those “Outsiders”

In Indiana, Republican candidates for Governor and Congress are spending megabucks on increasingly horrifying political ads. (Forget “dog whistles”–the ads for Governor, especially, are blatantly racist). Although it’s difficult to choose the very worst, a candidate for Congress in Indiana’s Fifth District probably wins that close vote: he faults the incumbent for sending tax dollars to Ukraine when we have an enormous problem in the U.S.– trans women competing in women’s sports.

Glad he has a sense of proportion…

Interestingly, the gubernatorial candidates’ attacks on each other have been for taking the few positions with which I actually agree, a tactic that certainly shows what they believe their base Republican voters think. If they’re correct, those voters are “base” in both senses of the word.

If there is a “through line” in these awful ads, however, it is the repeated claims to be “outsiders” rather than “career politicians.” It’s a laughable label for most of them: Braun has been a Senator for six years (granted, an undistinguished one, but it’s been six years) and he was a state legislator before that; Crouch was a County Auditor, served nine years in Indiana’s legislature and is currently Lieutenant Governor; Brad Chambers–who has really leaned on his “outsider” status–was Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce. Etc.

Not only are these claims to outsider status bogus, they’re stupid. Would you hire a job applicant who proudly proclaimed  ignorance of your business and emphasized a prior lack of experience?

James Briggs recently addressed this issue, somewhat tangentially, in a column for the Indianapolis Star.  Briggs was talking about his opposition to term limits–an opposition I share–but his reasoning is pertinent to the posturing of these “outsider” candidates. As he wrote:

State Rep. Chuck Goodrich, a Republican running in Indiana’s 5th District primary against Rep. Victoria Spartz, recently bragged about signing a term limits pledge, adding, “It’s time to break the grip of career politicians & ensure elected officials serve the people, not their own interests!”

That’s completely wrong.

A 2006 National Conference of State Legislatures report looked at states with legislative term limits and concluded “high turnover and relative inexperience create a steep learning curve for committee chairs and members, who are often less knowledgeable than their predecessors,” which “can result in increased influence by staff, bureaucrats and lobbyists.”

Essentially, term limits take power from the career politicians and hand it over to people who are less accountable to the public.

In Congress, the “newbies” are inevitably dependent upon and influenced by Congressional staff, who are familiar with the arcane rules of that body– and unelected by and unknown to the voting public.

Much like term limits, it’s popular to say the government should run like a business. I can’t think of any other economic sector where you’d find strong agreement for the statement, “The more experience you have, the worse you must be at your job.” We have a lot of job openings at IndyStar and I can assure you no one is running around yelling, “Find me some journalism outsiders!”

Briggs points out what most of us know: a professional body is more effective when it’s run by people who know what they’re doing.

The longer lawmakers serve in those jobs, the more they can learn how to navigate complex webs of rules and systems. They can also gain policy expertise, which is helpful for creating laws affecting virtually every part of people’s lives. They can develop relationships to help advance their goals.

The problems we face with government, especially in Indiana, aren’t a result of legislative longevity: they are a result of gerrymandering and low voter turnout. Briggs is dead-on with this paragraph:

Obviously, some elected officials don’t deserve to stay in office forever. The ills attributed to unlimited elected terms can more appropriately be linked to partisan gerrymandering, which creates safe spaces for ineffective, lazy and corrupt officials to win election after election. Yes, term limits would eventually knock those people out. So would competitive elections.

Let me repeat that last sentence: So would competitive elections.

I miss “career politicians” like Dick Lugar and Lee Hamilton. Joe Biden has been able to pass transformative legislation because he is a “career politician” who understands how government works, and how to get things done. I don’t know which of Indiana’s “know-nothing” Republicans will wind up on the general election ballot, but this year, for once, the Democrats have an unusually strong state ticket featuring experienced public servants who actually know how government works and what the positions they’re running for entail. They are also right on the issues.

Vote Blue, and make the GOP candidates actual outsiders.


  1. So far I see HUNDREDS of adds for the R’s and ZERO ads for the D’s
    Also Zero emails, Zero USPS Mailers, Zero lawn signs.
    That is disturbing

  2. “Essentially, term limits take power from the career politicians and hand it over to people who are less accountable to the public.”

    When I see support for term limits, my first thought is that would have ended Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the protection she provided for decades. We are now facing the addition of “age limits” to oust those who have the wisdom and experience to support democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution by fully understanding their meaning. Republicans are using “woke” and have added “DEI” as reasons to oust all sitting and Democratic candidates; the definition of both terms means awareness and support of democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution. Their entire campaign foundation is “Outside” all rationality and sanity.

    What is the definition of anything spouted by Trump, his MAGAs, White Nationalists and Freedom Caucus and his countless number of attorneys that is NOT “outside” the realm of rational thought and moral values?

    “Vote Blue, and make the GOP candidates actual outsiders.”

  3. Thank you for another great post.
    You’re right, the notion of wanting outsiders and not career (experienced) politicians in politics is nonsensical. I prefer having experienced politicians running the government, experienced pilots flying my planes, and experienced physicians diagnosing my medical problems. The GOP apparently prefers having the know-it-all guy at your church running your government, flying your plane or diagnosing your issues. I don’t care if he takes you for a ride. But I do care if I’m on the plane.
    GOP policies come down to three things: racism, greed, and fear, particularly the overriding fear that somewhere — amid all the real problems in society — is a trans kid who wants to swim on a school swim team.

  4. Patmcc, Jennifer McCormick is unapposed in the Democrat primary, so she will be the D candidate on the November ballot. Right now, the GOP candidates are fighting amongst each other for the title of the worst person to be Governor. In this situation it is best for the just to let the GOP show how awful they are.

  5. The whole “outsider” caucus reminds me of the post the other day about all the whimsical and corrupt officials Trump chose when elected. Not to mention posts on social media. People would share his quotes and thought he was a genius. These are low-IQ voters. The Republican Party is filled with yahoos. I’ve witnessed some real winners in Washington answering questions from Code Pink about their support for Israel’s genocide. Knowing these people serve on committees and vote on legislation is hard to watch. There is no way they understand what they are voting for.

    More legislation is drafted behind the scenes by lawyers and lobbyists and passed around to the Red States, or ALEC writes the bills and sends a check to a representative who introduces it.

    As for term limits, I’m all for them after a specific period unless we can eliminate gerrymandering. If the election process is rigged, term limits are the only way to get the rotation needed to keep them out of the corruption. Just don’t make it for too short a period. If we have competitive elections with neutral districts, we can rely on voting to remove ineffective and long-term politicians.

    Despite all the mechanisms we have in place, too many politicians get jobs with Washington or Indy lobbyists until their next run for office. The other place they hide is “think tanks.”

  6. another question here, who advises those words to be used in ads? PR is bought and sold, to anyone with the money. big money can buy the big words filtered and researched and then passed on to the buyer or used freely by the whoever they want to target. . “the big lie”being one of them,(bradley foundation,thru bots) and then targeted..the lower IQ voter. big money has been the forefront of getting its way with near unlimited resources. since they can and will, buy a group to find how to use a few cheap words to crash the party. bots,billboards, influencers and pox news and the like can use them knowing they are now in a free market. who is this group? obviously were too damn poor to flaunt this area. but as I believe, the rich are just wanting to make America their own personal use of its resources at any cost. ticker symbol USA.. ever wonder if google has list of lower IQ voters to sell? im sure that brings alot of money for them. now think tank/PR the influence out and to where..seems buying space on the billboards up for a period of time also is a scam. best wishes all..

  7. It has seemed to me, for some time now, that the people who most profit from our electoral system are those who produce the actual advertising! Big money gets the big ads…and who gets the money for those ads?

    Changing the subject: Some thoughts about yesterday’s topic “The ‘Great Replacement ‘ Fixation”:
    Those who fear replacement, especially who march shouting that “The Jews will not replace us!” need to be very careful about Jewish Replacement lasers. You know, if we had such wonderful items the new, already replaced, MTG would be an Orthodox Jew and been Bat Mitzvahed long ago; would be be walking around with a wig, or a shawl on her head all the time. The Nazi boy gangs would not be able to sleep, because, if you recall, in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” it was during sleep that the people were, literally, replaced.
    Just saying.

  8. It is gerrymandering that needs replacement – badly in need. There is a direct association between low turnout and the fix (aka gerrymandering). Despair sets in as the electoral results are the same ol, same ol, a same ol that reinforces more despair. Judicial intervention, anybody?

  9. Being MAGA (let’s face it, any Republican that doesn’t support MAGA is a former Republican) creates (does not require) suspicion, hate, and, therefore, anger toward others, not known personally but labeled as “different.” I think the training that creates those from people like you and me primarily comes from relentlessly watching Fox News. Other sources include pulpits and venues such as gun ranges and small-town talk.

    The how doesn’t matter as much as recognition and acceptance that it’s no longer your parents’ politics.

    As a liberal Democrat, I am one of the outsiders whom Republicans claim to be stealing their country as an excuse for them to steal my country. My country is well defined by an idea, carefully crafted into a document, the Constitution, and 250 years of application of it to the real world.

    Former SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer just published a book, “Reading the Constitution,” outlining the thought process he applied to interpret the Constitution. He labels it “Pragmatism” and compares it to “Textualism” or “Originalism,” both of which assume that the people who wrote it believed that the world would not change. Of course, those other interpretations might appeal to those who wish the world had not changed.

    Here you have current politics: Those who accept the world as it is vs. those who wish for a different world.

  10. Everyone wondered how Marco Rubio was re-elected. He is one of the most remarkably ineffective Senators we have. The pacs supporting him used AI to create ads that made his opponent seem like a maniacal Communist, setting out to change Florida to Cuba.

    On the subject of term limits, I believe that the Founding Fathers gave us the proper way to limit the terms of our legislative and Executive “leaders” and that is the vote. Term limits are the lazy person’s way to change.

  11. Be sure to read Heather Cox Richardson today. She and Sheila keep me grounded in reality.

  12. Peggy, that’s the only way aRubio can win, especially in Florididia, with our
    large ex-pat Cuban population.
    One ought not forget, though, that when Rick Scott was Gov., he found a way to
    eliminate 98,000 Black voters from the rolls, whatever role that might have played in Rubio’s win; it certainly played a large one in DePutz’ first win!

  13. fIn one of Brigg’s quotes, he says “Much like term limits, it’s popular to say the government should run like a business.” But we also hear said that the government shouldn’t spend more than it brings in – it should be like your household budget. So many people think that when Texas takes the Medicaid option to increase healthcare for their poor, that the money that the feds givbe to the state falls in a hole and disappears. Actually no. It goes to pay the healthcare organizations providing care, who use it to pay employee salaries, buy equipment, pay utilities, etc, and then the employee spends it for rent, groceries, transportation, the equipment suppliers pay salaries and buy more stuff, the utilities pay salaries and so on. The money flows through the economy and increase the wealth of the people of the state. But I almost never see anyone talking about this, so people keed believing there’s a hole somewhere that it falls into and disappears.

    And on local elections, it turns out that out of six county offices up for election this fall, 3 of them have Democrats running! That has to be a record in Hendricks County!

  14. As “Rabbi David” (Brooks wrote this past week):

    Over the past few generations, the celebration of individual freedom has overspilled its banks and begun to erode the underlying set of civic obligations. Especially after World War II and then into the 1960s, we saw the privatization of morality — the rise of what came to be known as the ethos of moral freedom. Americans were less likely to assume that people learn values by living in coherent moral communities. They were more likely to adopt the belief that each person has to come up with his or her own personal sense of right and wrong. As far back as 1955, the columnist Walter Lippmann saw that this was going to lead to trouble: “If what is good, what is right, what is true, is only what the individual ‘chooses’ to ‘invent,’ then we are outside the traditions of civility,” he wrote.
    Trust is the faith that other people will do what they ought to do. When there are no shared moral values and norms, then social trust plummets. People feel alienated and under siege, and, as Hannah Arendt observed, lonely societies turn to authoritarianism. People eagerly follow the great leader and protector, the one who will lead the us/them struggle that seems to give life meaning.

Comments are closed.