Obamacare

Mary Landrieu and the Problem With Washington

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Since 1997, Mary Landrieu has served as a Democratic Senator from Louisiana. That means she works in Washington, D.C., and maintains a home in the nation's capitol as well. That's now a potential liability. As a new ad targeting Landrieu unsubtly notes, she seems to have made Capitol Hill her primary residence.

American Crossroads: Landrieu for Washington from American Crossroads on Vimeo.

It's a brutal little spot, and if you're the sort of person who believes that clever TV ads can swing a tight race, then this is an ad that probably whispers "game-changer!" in your ear.

But what's the argument here? As Paul Waldman writes in The American Prospect, in response to the general charge against Landrieu, there's something a little bit strange about this line of attack, which implies that voters should reject Landrieu because she lives where they have repeatedly sent her to work. (She maintains joint ownership of a family home in New Orleans as well.) 

Now, maybe there's a case to be made that someone who has made a life elsewhere for the better part of two decades is not in tune with the interests of her potential constituents. But that's not really what the ad says. It just makes Landrieu out to be, well, a pretty good neighbor on Capitol Hill.

Which is why the bigger problem, I think, is that there's not a lot of substance to the ad. That's not to say there aren't reasons to disagree with Landrieu's policy positions: She supports reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank. She opposes efforts to end energy subsidies. She voted for Obamacare, despite its unpopularity in her state, and offered minimalist, gimmicky "fixes" when it crashed last year. Now she calls it "a solid law that needs improvement."

These are issues, and it's possible to craft ads that touch on some of them. Landrieu's town home on Capitol Hill, where she works, and her relationship to the neighborhood, seems like less of one.

That said, I wouldn't go as far as Waldman does in rejecting the entire genre of populist anti-Washington attacks. There is a problem with Washington. It's just that the problem isn't that longtime legislators live there, or own homes near their offices, or don't own a sufficient amount of property in their districts.

The problem is that Washington isn't, or at least shouldn't be, the core of what makes America great or important or interesting. It's a city of administrators and bureaucrats and rulemakers. Some are necessary. Many are not. But the making of the bureaucratic particulars shouldn't be confused with the country's purpose. Washington should be as central to American life as filing cabinets and basement storage systems are to one's home.

It's not that the various mechanisms and organizational schemes aren't important—they are, and often require considerable time and thought and effort to implement and maintain well—but ultimately they should exist to free people up to do other things, rather than live strictly in service of themselves.

But that's a broader problem with a culture and sensibility more than with any particular candidate, and it's harder to run ads against. 

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  1. This just in: People become senators so they can escape their constituents for six years at a time.

  2. BELTWAY BELTWAY BELTWAY!

  3. Symbolism is a powerful thing. The point that the US Senate exists outside of the people it serves is a powerful and valid criticism. Her living in Washington DC and never bothering to go back to the state she represents other than to campaign and do the minimum necessary to maintain a residence is a very powerful symbol of Washington being out of touch with the country it is supposed to serve.

    Moreover, it is more than symbolic. It is a valid substantive criticism. I don’t think it is too much to expect that politicians live in the states they are supposed to serve or an unfair conclusion to draw that those who don’t really don’t care about the people they are supposed to represent. Yes, it is not a fatal criticism. Maybe Landreiu is still a good Senator in spite of not living in Louisiana. But if she is it is in spite of this and it is up to her to now explain why that is.

    1. “The point that the US Senate exists outside of the people it serves is a powerful and valid criticism.”

      agreed, Suderman hand waved this away like it was nothing

    2. It’s a valid criticism, but not necessarily substantive. The Senate just shouldn’t involve itself in so many aspects of peoples’ lives. Approve treaties, approve appointments, protect the space-time continuum, kick back and have a martini, and nobody will give a fuck where you do your drinking.

      1. No. It still would matter. If you claim to represent an area, you ought to live there and have some understanding of it and the people you represent. You can’t do that living in Washington full time. That is true no matter how big or small the duties of the Senate.

  4. We should make it a part-time job. Then they’d have plenty of time to spend at home.

    1. It is a part-time job.

  5. Since Reps and Senators are supposed to be serving their country, and so many of them have complained how expensive it is to maintain a home in or near Washington, why not build them special barracks that are reasonably comfortable in a Spartan way? They could even have their own special bus service to take them to the Capitol.

    1. And since they’d be living together, just think of all the compromising they could …. On second thought, maybe not.

    2. Am I safe to assume that this bus will be short?

    3. What’s it called when a bus carrying 20 senators crashes into the Potomac?

      1. A good day?

      2. They shot John Glenn into space twice (once when he was a senator), but space kept spitting him out. Sigh.

      3. We’re gonna need a bigger bus.

      4. Pollution?

    4. Or, I dunno, build a super conferencing technology to let them virtually meet, and then they can just stay in their state.

    5. Why don’t we have holographic projection ala Star Wars yet? Then they would just have to come into DC twice a year for in-person votes like the budget or something.

  6. Yet another good example of why the 17th Amendment was possibly the worst thing to ever happen to the American political system.

  7. Washington should be as central to American life as filing cabinets and basement storage systems are to one’s home.

    What? I must need more coffee ….

    1. I believe he’s saying that it should be there, but we shouldn’t have to think about it every freaking day.

      1. And when it gets infested with spiders you know its time to throw it all out and start over.

        1. Or did we all know that and I’m the only moron who blurted out the punch line?

          1. No. I’m the moron that posts responses to himself in the wrong place.

    2. Washington should be, at most, of peripheral interest to American citizens. The fact that it has become such a dominant factor in the average person’s life is an abomination.

  8. Most state legislatures are part time. Why shouldn’t,our federal legislature follow those examples and make,these people part-time. Or,at least part-time in Washington and full-time in their district office.

    We have the tech to let them vote remotely or at least debate remotely and come to Washington two days a month to vote on all of the items that debate is closed on. Fuck, this isn’t rocket science.

    1. How will they go to all of those cocktail parties and fancy soirees?

      1. Are we talking about the legislature or the Reason staff?

    2. I like the vote by remote idea. How about we ban Congress from meeting in person at all? We could justify it by saying that putting all of those important people in one place is just too risky and too big of a target for the terrorists. They will love that. Make them all stay in their districts or states and meet via teleconference. Otherwise, the terrorists will have won.

    3. I can see how, before the advent of widespread telecom technology and air transportation, maintaining a separate residence in the capitol would’ve been easier than doing business by snail mail and traveling by coach or car. But now, when you can meet with practically anyone anywhere over the phone or internet, there’s really no reason for representatives not to be co-located with their constituents.

      1. I assume every Congressional district by this point has at least one Starbucks with free Wifi.

  9. These are issues, and it’s possible to craft ads that touch on some of them. Landrieu’s town home on Capitol Hill, where she works, and her relationship to the neighborhood, seems like less of one.

    You have come to a world without hate, without fear, without conflict. No war, no disease, no crime. None of the ancient evils. Landrieu seeks tranquility, peace for all, the universal good.

      1. The Body absorbs its enemies. It only kills when it has to. When the first Louisianians came, they were free, out of control, opposing the will of Landrieu. Many were killed. Many more were absorbed.

  10. I would think the bigger problem with Mary Landrieu is that she, along with her whole family, is crooked as a corkscrew. But saying that runs into libel laws and such, so not really a fertile ground for advertisement.

    1. Hey, at least a corkscrew is useful.

  11. Mary Landrieu still lives in her Mom’s house.

    Would you want your US Senator to still be living her parent’s house?

  12. We should make it a part-time job. Then they’d have plenty of time to spend at home.

    But- DO NOTHING CONGRESS!

    Get in there and legislate; that’s what we pay you for, goddammit.

    1. Repealing prior legislation is also legislating.

  13. As Paul Waldman writes in The American Prospect, in response to the general charge against Landrieu, there’s something a little bit strange about this line of attack, which implies that voters should reject Landrieu because she lives where they have repeatedly sent her to work. (She maintains joint ownership of a family home in New Orleans as well.)

    That’s damn well not the problem and Waldman knows it. The ad, while parochial in its tenor, makes a good point in that the electorate in a given state usually send their representatives or senators to Washington D.C. to protect and advance their local and state interests, not the interests of residents of Washington D.C.

    That time you spent getting earmarks for D.C. could be better served getting earmarks for Louisiana, you know, the people who keep sending you back to D.C.

    1. If it is not a valid criticism, why require residency at all? Why not just let the top men in Washington divide up the country and run for office in each state and district accordingly without having to soil themselves by ever visiting the places they represent much less living there?

      1. Indeed. Instead of this diluted freedom we all have too little of, let us symbolically imbue the Senate with all of our freedom so that we can at least watch free men and women live out their lives in liberty.

        1. If we do that, I want a deathmatch for the job and the outgoing Senators to be ritually killed by the incoming. Let’s go full-on Fisher King with this shit.

  14. Why not just let the top men in Washington divide up the country and run for office in each state and district accordingly without having to soil themselves by ever visiting the places they represent reign over much less living there?

    1. We could call them districts and they could all pay fealty to the main district.

      Of course we might have to come up with some kind of game to keep the people’s minds off of all the tyranny and oppression.

      1. Is it legal to make a Hunger Games reference here? I need a ruling.

        1. No, and DesigNate must be punished.

          1. I was due for reeducation in Warty’s dungeon later this week. Isn’t that punishment enough?

          2. The Most Dangerous Game again, then?

            1. Water Polo?

  15. Despite the lack of substance, I’m happy to see team blue subjected to the same hyperbole and bullshit that they usually spout. Turnabout meet fair play….bitch

  16. I tend to disagree with the author…

    We have a problem today with elitist, family descendent politicians that have lost contact with the real world. Ms Landrieu epitomizes this dilemma.

    Living in Dads house… what does she understand about the impact of Louisiana laws on property taxes… in order to understand the cumulative effect of Federal tax laws + Louisiana laws?

    I realize her work is in Washington DC… but she’s there to represent Louisiana. To best represent her constituents, she needs to live like her constituents as much as she can.
    HB

  17. For the life of me, I can’t understand why a Reason author would spend a single moment defending Mary Landrieu from any attack, no matter how spurious (although I happen to think this ad is on the mark). In case you haven’t noticed Mr. Suderman, the entire mainstream media is shilling for Leftism. There are more than enough people on the Left who will criticize this ad. You might consider spending your time supporting candidates who want to reduce the size of government. That is what libertarianism is all about, after all.

    1. The attack is thematically xenophobic and provincial. Both impulses tend to draw people away from libertarian results and to encourage people to vote their prejudices.

  18. This is a problem for many…

    I was a reisdent of Texas, and sold everything and moved to Costa Rica.

    BY TX law, I have 30 days to report my change of address, but if I do so, I am no longer a resident of TX (must have a physical address in TX)and therefore can’t have a TX DL.

    I can not be a resident of ANY state, because I am NOT a resident of any state. And yet, much official business requires proof of a US State residency.

    It has been recommeded to me to use a “shell” address of a friend or relative in the state of TX as MY physical address, which like Mary, when scrutinized would stink to high heaven.

    But there is no other option I know of.

  19. ” It’s a city of administrators and bureaucrats and rulemakers. Some are necessary. Many are not. But the making of the bureaucratic particulars shouldn’t be confused with the country’s purpose.”

    The more fundamental problem with Washington is that it is a city not of boring, drone-like bureaucrats grinding away at their dismal craft but of libido-driven powermongers, a city which possesses an immense pool of power that is bought, sold, bartered, stolen, seduced and extorted, a city that attracts megalomaniacs the way Hollywood attracts narcissists. The sheer intoxicating quantity of power and money that is controlled by a relatively small group of people in that third-rate city is unlike anything that has ever been known before in the history of the human race. Washington is the very beating heart of larceny and corruption in this country, and a “representative” whose only connection to those he represents is a post-office box, so to speak, does not, cannot provide honest and ethical representation. If you leave your home to go to Washington and you never return, you have made a choice to become Washington and forsake those who sent you there.

    It is a fact. It is so.

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