I know Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD by reputation only. It is a good reputation.
I do know Al Wynn (D-MD) well. We worked on the Energy and Commerce Committee together. I like him and respect him.
This, however, is no evaluation of these two veteran Members of the House who were defeated in Maryland’s recent primary. Nor is it comment on the attributes and capabilities of the members of their own party who defeated them. Rather, it focuses on the troubling trend those defeats reflect.
With the immense help of the last decennial Congressional redistricting, more and more Congressional districts fall into predictable Red or Blue categories. The survival of incumbents depends more these days on keeping their party’s base happy, than in working with colleagues of differing views to find honest compromises that allow Congress to get its work done. (See a “Swift 2¢ Worth,” Archives, April and June of 2006)
Both Gilchrest and Wynn are moderates. While their voting records demonstrate clearly that one was a Republican and the other a Democrat, neither of them marched in lock-step with their parties on all issues. That independence, that characteristic of thinking for ones self, is not honored in some circles. It is particularly resented on the outer fringes of each party.
It is no accident that Rep. Gilchrest was opposed by Club for Growth, a very right wing political organization. Equally extreme and equally rigid organizations of the left bragged about the role they had in defeating Rep. Wynn. Worse, they promised more to come. This insistence on total orthodoxy by the fringe of each party is what has crippled our Congress and nearly brought it to a stand-still.
If we are going to preserve the freedoms of diversity of opinion, still address vexing problems and yet get things done, compromise is essential. If we allow the far right and the far left to vote moderation out in our primary elections we will not see Congress function well again for quite some time.