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Doug Clark: Install mayor’s revolving door in other Washington

Sun., Aug. 12, 2012

The primary election is over, and all 16 votes have been counted.

The dismal turnout proves that holding primaries in the summer – when everybody’s on the golf course or playing volleyball at church nudist camp – is a really bonehead idea.

Not that it matters.

See, one of the most depressing realities about America’s political process is that incumbents always win.

Oh, not all the time.

Every rule has an exception, like, say, if Senator X gets caught diddling someone in a men’s room who is outside his party.

God-fearing voters won’t let an official get away with such blatant immorality. Not unless Senator X delivers a new air base or a skateboard park to the region.

Political experts call such payoffs “pork chop politics,” which may explain why sitting members of Congress enjoy an 80 percent re-election rate.

The rate for squatting members of Congress is even more shocking.

This incumbent advantage should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, especially to those of you who bothered to read our Wednesday front-page election coverage, headlined: “It’s a big day for incumbents.”

The story centered on U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat.

Both incumbents won big in the primary. Both look very hard to beat in the November general election.

The crazy thing is that we keep re-electing incumbents despite the fact that the average citizen devotes at least 17 hours a day to griping and moaning about how elected officials are dirtier than a Tour de France winner’s pee stream.

The radio talk show industry, for example, is entirely devoted to this subject.

Tune into any program and you’re bound to hear…

HOST – “We have Chip from Modesto on Line 1. Tell me, Chip, why are kids failing in school?”

CHIP – “Nobody’s gonna take away my guns. I say THROW THE BUMS OUT!!!”

HOST – “Excellent point. Shirley’s on Line 3. Any thoughts about what Chip just said?”

SHIRLEY – “I was just calling about the first time I got probed by a space alien.”

HOST – “Don’t you want to throw the bums out?”

SHIRLEY – “All the way to Uranus!”

HOST – “Let’s go to Brad on Line 4.”

Then the election rolls around and, despite all the tough talk, you know what happens?

Steve Tucker gets re-elected for the 63rd time as Spokane County prosecutor, that’s what happens.

And has anybody even seen Tucker lately?

I mean, really. It seems like years since I last heard anything about the man.

Is he all right? Did he join the PGA tour?

But getting back to our original topic …

Imposing term limits on Congress is one idea that has been kicked around for years, especially by bitter politicians who can’t get elected to Congress.

But congressional term limits will never work and here’s why.

Newcomers always go into Congress with high ideals of remaining humble public servants. Then they find all the perks: the fancy offices, the personal masseuses, the solid gold bathroom fixtures …

What fool’s gonna walk away from that?

You’d have to call the sheriff and start an eviction process, which, as any landlord knows, can take years.

Strangely enough, there’s only one elected position in America where incumbents are at a statistical disadvantage.

Yes, I’m talking about the …

Spokane mayor.

It’s a matter of public record that the Lilac City has not had a multiterm mayor since all the streets were made out of bricks.

I’ve always considered this one of life’s great mysteries, like trying to guess what office Michael Baumgartner will run for next year.

Now I’m thinking that maybe Spokane is not so weird after all.

Maybe we have it right.

I propose that we bring in experts to conduct a major study into Spokane’s revolving-door mayoral system and how it can be replicated in state and national offices.

Such an in-depth study could take millions when you factor normal costs like bribes and skimming.

The city, alas, is so broke it can barely keep up with paying those outrageous salaries to fire department officials.

There’s only one way to make it happen.

Somebody call Senator X and hit him up for some pork chops.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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