A new Rasmussen poll finds that 68 percent of Americans think elections are rigged in favor of incumbents. And they’re basically right.
Incumbents get a voice in gerrymandering — meaning that the politicians, in an inversion of the normal rules of democracy, get to choose their voters. They begin raising money starting the day they’re elected so by the time their reelection rolls around their challenger is at a severe financial disadvantage. They have name recognition and ground games that few challengers can match, and they can do favors for influential people and organizations throughout their district. And because so much of Congress works on seniority, they can argue, plausibly, that they’ll be more effective for their constituents than their challenger.
The result is that very few congressional elections are seriously competitive. Reelection rates for incumbents tend to hover around 90 percent — and they occasionally get perilously close to 100 percent.