The democratic process in action

Removing incumbents whose views diverge from their constitutents' is a profoundly democratic act, whether done by Democrats or Republicans.

Published August 9, 2006 10:23PM (EDT)

Obscured by the whirlwind of accusations that Democrats have engaged in a "purge" of their party (as a result of something that used to be known as the "democratic process"), Republicans had a "purge" of their own last night.

Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Schwarz of Michigan was defeated by his primary challenger, Tim Walberg, whose candidacy was based on the claim that Schwarz was insufficiently loyal to the conservative cause and is a RINO (Republican in name only) by virtue of his moderate views on certain issues.

In reality, Schwarz was a Bush administration loyalist, and President Bush (along with John McCain) actively supported his reelection. But Schwarz favors stem cell research, abortion rights and certain healthcare reforms. For those positions, he was deemed to be ideologically impure, and Walberg's challenge was fueled by right-wing ideological groups such as Michigan Right to Life and the Club for Growth, the latter run by former Rep. Pat Toomey (who ran in a 2004 Republican primary against Sen. Arlen Specter on the grounds that Specter was ideologically impure, a "purge" attempt enthusiastically backed by, among others, National Review). As National Journal's Blogometer reports: "Conservative bloggers were uniformly pleased" with the Michigan result.

When citizens believe that one of their representatives in Washington no longer represents their views, particularly on critical issues, and they therefore decide to support a candidate whose views are closer to their own, that is not a "purge," nor is it some radical, improper act. That happens to be the essence of the democratic process in action. It means that elected officials are accountable to their constituents and subject to being removed if they are insufficiently responsive. One of the premises of our system of government is that this is a good thing. And particularly now, in a country burdened by a 98 percent reelection rate for members of Congress, defeats of incumbents due to policy disagreements is something to be celebrated wherever it occurs.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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