Bilbray: The Shot Heard 'Round the Capitol

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:

'The scandals of Duke Cunningham have shown all of us what corruption in Washington looks like: close relationships between government contractors and members of Congress, lobbyists writing legislation, backroom and anonymous budget deals and a general disregard for spending taxpayer money honestly.

'I am running to change all that. For too long, Washington politicians from both parties have told us that the status quo culture of corruption is as good as it gets. But now, we have a chance to tell Washington that we don't want more of the same Duke Cunningham style of pay—to—play politics.

'Washington special interests are desperate to keep this seat and they will say or do anything to attack me. The Washington insiders have lined up behind my opponent, a DC lobbyist. They are fighting me because they know I am determined to bring real change to Washington starting with a victory in this district on June 6th.

'This election is about so much more than Democrats versus Republicans, it is about changing the way Washington works. I hope you will join my campaign to restore honesty and integrity to Congress.'

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:

'On issues like illegal immigration and government spending, Congress has let us down.

'I decided to run for Congress because I feel I have the experience and commitment needed to bring these issues to the forefront and make a difference.

'As you may know, I served in Congress in the 1990's. When I left, we had a balanced budget and a $150 billion surplus. Since that time, Congress has spent us into a massive deficit that threatens our economic well—being.

'Over the past several years I have served as a Co—Chair of the Federation for American Immigration reform (FAIR), working to convince Congress to toughen our laws against illegal immigration.  We cannot wait one day longer to protect ourselves from illegal immigration and in Congress that issue will be my number one priority.

'At the heart of this campaign is my goal of returning this district and the institution of Congress back to a time where integrity and common sense were valued.'

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:

'Yes, Democrats should point out the GOP's 'culture of corruption' —— but Iraq and how it has made America less safe needs to be the 'centerpiece' of the 2006 campaign. Busby didn't do it and lost.'

Huffington ironically and maybe even rhetorically concluded:

'Will national Democrats learn the lesson of California's 50th?'

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.

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:

'The scandals of Duke Cunningham have shown all of us what corruption in Washington looks like: close relationships between government contractors and members of Congress, lobbyists writing legislation, backroom and anonymous budget deals and a general disregard for spending taxpayer money honestly.

'I am running to change all that. For too long, Washington politicians from both parties have told us that the status quo culture of corruption is as good as it gets. But now, we have a chance to tell Washington that we don't want more of the same Duke Cunningham style of pay—to—play politics.

'Washington special interests are desperate to keep this seat and they will say or do anything to attack me. The Washington insiders have lined up behind my opponent, a DC lobbyist. They are fighting me because they know I am determined to bring real change to Washington starting with a victory in this district on June 6th.

'This election is about so much more than Democrats versus Republicans, it is about changing the way Washington works. I hope you will join my campaign to restore honesty and integrity to Congress.'

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:

'On issues like illegal immigration and government spending, Congress has let us down.

'I decided to run for Congress because I feel I have the experience and commitment needed to bring these issues to the forefront and make a difference.

'As you may know, I served in Congress in the 1990's. When I left, we had a balanced budget and a $150 billion surplus. Since that time, Congress has spent us into a massive deficit that threatens our economic well—being.

'Over the past several years I have served as a Co—Chair of the Federation for American Immigration reform (FAIR), working to convince Congress to toughen our laws against illegal immigration.  We cannot wait one day longer to protect ourselves from illegal immigration and in Congress that issue will be my number one priority.

'At the heart of this campaign is my goal of returning this district and the institution of Congress back to a time where integrity and common sense were valued.'

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:

'Yes, Democrats should point out the GOP's 'culture of corruption' —— but Iraq and how it has made America less safe needs to be the 'centerpiece' of the 2006 campaign. Busby didn't do it and lost.'

Huffington ironically and maybe even rhetorically concluded:

'Will national Democrats learn the lesson of California's 50th?'

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.