I just checked my calendar. The general election, and the epic campaign season that preceded it, ended 19 days ago. The 113th Congress will not be seated until Jan. 3, 2013, and the president will not be inaugurated until Jan. 21, 2013. Yet, there is already a lot of discussion about who will run for president in 2016 and which members of Congress will face challenges in 2014.
Electing the right people is only a small measure of political power. The truest measure of political power is the ability of a group to convince whoever is elected to make decisions that support their interest. That process is much more complicated than getting a candidate elected and requires an enormous amount of resources. So, it is puzzling that activists and advocates from various points of view are looking ahead to the next election instead of focusing on ways to effectively influence the policymaking decisions of those who were actually elected 19 days ago.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., provides the perfect case study of this phenomenon.
I have not often agreed with Sen. Chambliss' positions. However, in spite of who may serve in the future, he is our Senator today and will be for the next couple of years. The Senate will be asked to make some extremely critical decisions between now and Dec. 31, 2014. So, the most productive thing for me to do is focus on efforts to convince him to take policy positions with which I agree during the lame duck session of the 112th Congress and the duration of the 113th Congress.
Others feel quite differently. They believe that the most productive thing to do is to start building a campaign to defeat Chambliss in 2014.
Groups are already engaging political strategists and operatives to develop campaign plans. Names of potential candidates are being floated. Fundraisers are determining how much money will be available to finance the challenge.
And this is all for the Republican primary.
It is true that the threat of a re-election challenge always gets the attention of the incumbent. Sometimes that threat has the desired influence; making the incumbent act in ways that he otherwise would not. But, that only works when the incumbent feels like the opposition is strong enough to elect someone else.
When the incumbent isn't scared, the threat of losing an election means nothing. Based on recent statements from Sen. Chambliss, he is committed to pursuing the policies he believes to be in the best interest of the country and making his case to the voters when campaign season comes.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.