Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) defeated at the state Republican convention after three terms in the Senate. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) defeated in the Democratic primary after five terms in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) failed to get enough votes to avoid a Democratic primary after two terms in the Senate. Rand Paul soundly defeated Trey Grayson in the Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky. Democrats retained seat in the Pennsylvania congressional special election. Charlie Crist left the Republican Party to pursue Senate seat in Florida. Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts.
What is the message? Some say it’s an anti-Democratic message. Some say it’s an anti-incumbent message. Some say it’s an anti-Obama message. Whether you are a freshman Congressman running for re-election, a second-term senator running for re-election or a candidate running for elected office for the first time, the message is the same: The election is not about you, it is about the people and they are mad and they are frustrated. They are angry because they believe you care more about keeping your job then about the fact that they no longer have a job. They have seen their 401(k) sink with the stock market. They have seen the fighting in Washington on health care, financial services reform and climate change. They have seen the deficit explode with no end in sight for increased government spending. They watch television and see a SUV ready to explode in Times Square. They watch as thousands of gallons of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, the people are angry, frustrated and concerned.
So what is the answer? Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent—listen to the people. Go out there and connect with the people. Take off your tie. Roll up your sleeves. Tell them how you, one Senator, one Congressman, are going to make a difference in their lives. They don’t want to hear that the Democrats control Congress and The White House so it’s their fault or that you think the Republicans are being obstructionists. They want to hear how you are going to make their life better.
Democracy is the greatest form of government in the world. We all have an opportunity to participate and our votes do count. If the voters deny you your party nomination, don’t switch parties out of political expediency; accept the will of the people and exit gracefully. Listen to the people. This is the message the voters are sending. Is anyone listening?
Jill Sigal is President of Jill Sigal Associates a consulting firm specializing in policy development, strategic planning, government relations, communications and stakeholder and community outreach.