Election 2010: The Why Not Me Party Lands Historic Numbers of Freshman

I’ve been telling people to jump on this observation band wagon for a while now but here again, on the front page of the New York Times, “To Congress With Mantra, Why Not Me?” You can read details about all of them at this NYT interactive tool. (Notice, by the way, that of the more than 30 shown, only three are women and one of those I’d hardly call a newcomer to politics, New Hampshire AG Kelly Ayotte – it’s an appointed position there, but still.) An excerpt:

The Tea Party movement, with its message of encouraging citizen-legislators, the broader anti-incumbent mood and the sheer amount of turnover — at least 60 House seats will change hands in January — combined to put into office doctors, small-business owners, a dentist, a pilot, a youth minister and a popular local pizza man, among others.

But my favorite most resonant graphs?

“This group will pose a real challenge to the leaders,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “A lot of the members coming in believe what they’ve seen on television, that all you have to do is do the right thing and it will happen. And if it doesn’t, you bring the temple down around you. For them to accept the notion that you have to bite your tongue is going to be a challenge.”

However, at that time, Republicans had been out of power for decades, and there was little party structure or discipline to try to keep newcomers in line. Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, who was elected in 1990, became chairman of the House Republican Conference after the 1994 election, and saw firsthand how unruly newcomers and a lack of fealty to leadership can cause trouble. [emphasis added]

How many are there actually? According to the NYT, 35 in the House, four in the Senate and just one Democrat among those 39 (Terri Sewell of Alabama, the first African-American female elected to Congress).

Personally, I think this is great – I just don’t think our system such as it is is going to know what to do with such an influx and that’s a real problem – for both the system and the newcomers.

My advice to the newcomers? Never make a decision that will prevent you from sleeping well at night, i.e., might give your conscience some trouble. Because you are going to need the rest to face challenges another day.

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