Carpetbagger. It’s a term with roots deep in the most traumatic period of American history. In the aftermath of the Civil War, with most of the South’s political class disenfranchised while freed slaves were newly (albeit temporarily) enfranchised, the former Confederate States were deluged with wannabe politicians from “up north.”
Depending upon the point of view, these “carpetbaggers” (named for the inexpensive and lightweight luggage they used) might be either heroes or villains in the post-war drama. That the term “carpetbagger” has become derogatory, readily mixed with mud and slung during political fights, indicates which view carried the day. “Carpetbagger” is the first cry from opponents when a candidate relocates in search of an elected position.
But in a country as mobile as ours has become, it doesn’t make much sense to judge a candidate on where she’s lived the longest—unless, of course, the candidates themselves turn opportunist to make residency an election issue.
Dismay, then, would be the only way to describe our reaction to the television ads touting Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock as less worthy of election in the 4th congressional District because he doesn’t live there. Of course, former congressman Doug Ose, the man behind the ads and a competing Republican candidate, doesn’t live there either—unless you count the guest house in Granite Bay he rented just about the time these residency-related accusations started heating up.
Ose really lives in the neighboring 3rd District. In fact, he used to represent the 3rd District in Congress. But in order to take back the seat he gave up in 2004 (he was campaigning unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to challenge Barbara Boxer for her spot in the U.S. Senate), he’d have to run against current Republican incumbent Dan Lungren—who didn’t live in the 3rd District when he started his 2004 campaign, either. And before Lungren was elected in the 3rd District, he represented the 34th District, way down in Long Beach.
Meanwhile, McClintock’s been representing a Southern California district that includes Thousand Oaks, but he lives in Elk Grove.
Here’s our message to Ose, McClintock and everybody else in the Republican race in the 4th District: Will someone please, please start discussing how to return integrity to government in the northeast part of the state?
That’s the real issue. None of these candidates had any interest whatsoever in this district until “Boss” Doolittle’s political machine threw a gear and started spewing subpoenas. Then they all got busy packing their bags.
So gentlemen, please end the residential discussions. Your potential future constituents would be better served if you were to explain what you’ll be doing to change the area’s reputation for insider dealing, machine politics and big-time political money laundering.
Here’s a chance to do the right thing for a district that’s been through 17 years of the Doolittle machine. If candidates put good government ahead of campaigning, integrity ahead of scoring points in polls, they might be worthy of the job for which they campaign.