June 8, 2006
Bilbray: The Shot Heard 'Round the CapitolBy Noel Sheppard
Did you hear that sound early Wednesday morning? That was millions of Democrats gasping when Brian Bilbray beat Francine Busby for the open House seat vacated by newly imprisoned Randy Cunningham in California's 50th Congressional District.
What's that old saying about counting one's chickens?
Since Cunningham's disgraceful exit from Congress in November 2005, Democrats and members of the drive—by media have been pointing to this election as a barometer for things to come in the fall of 2006. As a result of Cunningham's darkened cloud of bribery and tax evasion, the left expected this special election would represent a clarion call for unleashing voter disgust with the 'culture of corruption' he and the Republicans supposedly represent, and would produce a resounding victory for a Democrat in a very conservative district that would catalyze the left's Congressional takeover a la 1994.
Unfortunately, the millibars don't seem to be forecasting the gale—force winds of change the left have been predicting. Quite the contrary, this victory by Bilbray strongly suggests that the more Democrats point fingers without offering solutions, the less the electorate trust they are actually interested in solving the problems they're constantly complaining about.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As a result, Busby has now become a poster child for this ongoing Democrat affliction, even though it seems quite unlikely that party leaders will either recognize the meaning of this loss, or alter their strategy in the next five months.
Yet, a quick examination of the 'mission statement' at the Busby For Congress website exposes in full view both the symptoms of this pernicious malady as well as the cause:
And that's it. No specifics about how she would change things. No policies that she would implement or causes she would champion if elected. Just finger pointing at awful Republican corruption, and a plea to elect her to make things better without any details as to how.
Should that be a surprise? Isn't that exactly how Democrats have been campaigning for many years, and why they continue to lose?
By contrast, here is Bilbray's 'mission statement' from his website:
Imagine that: Bilbray actually spoke about some issues important to Americans, namely immigration and government spending. Think that might be why he won? Conservative—turned—liberal Arianna Huffington implied as much in her blog post Wednesday where she questioned Busby's strategy:
Huffington ironically and maybe even rhetorically concluded:
Alas, the answer is no. And this is the lesson of the Bilbray victory: the Democrats appear incapable of learning from their mistakes, and are, therefore, destined to continually repeat them.
After all, in a district that was ripe for the taking due to Cunningham's misdeeds and shameful departure — along with daily reminders of this by the national and local media — a Democrat still couldn't win. Why? Because she ran on the shortcomings of others rather than her own strengths and vision for the future.
To be sure, this strategy is how a party in power can retain that power as it is easy to play defense when you've got the lead. However, the minority party candidate must provide a reason for the electorate to take a risk and change course midstream.
And the Democrats are still unwilling to do this. Instead, they are content to bank on their 'culture of corruption' mantra even though polls suggest this to be a losing strategy, for in this regard, the public doesn't see a big difference between the two parties.
In the end, if the good folks of this Southern California district in the middle of a Republican corruption scandal aren't buying it, why should voters across the fruited plain?
Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and contributing writer to the Business & Media Institute. He is also contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. Noel welcomes feedback.