Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Listen Carefully to Politicians Running against Government

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Listen Carefully to Politicians Running against Government

Article excerpt

At 29, Mike Herson of Middletown, N.J., is the youngest Republican candidate for Congress. With a law degree from Rutgers and a master's in national security affairs from Georgetown, this determined young man put in a couple of years at the Pentagon and then went home to challenge a standard Republican pol in the primary. To everyone's surprise, Herson - running on shoeleather and a shoestring - whipped the establishment candidate nearly two to one.

Now he's threatening a seat held by Democrats for a generation. Rep. Frank Pallone is well financed with PAC donations and led his state in taxpayer-financed franked mailings. He had every right to expect to breeze in. Yet, like so many "safe" seats this year, his is suddenly considered vulnerable.

According to Herson, fresh from 6 a.m. handshaking at the New Brunswick commuter train station, tax-and-spend is foremost on voters' minds, which accounts for his opponent's fervent turn to fiscal conservatism.

But the gut issue is distrust of politicians as a breed.

That's unfair, of course; as unfair as distrusting all pundits. Someday, an Old Pro facing certain defeat will dare to buy a 10-second spot to say: "You get a toothache, you go to a professional dentist. Your car's engine starts smoking, you want an experienced mechanic. So if you want government fixed, why not go to a professional pol?"

We shall not soon see such stark honesty. On the contrary, as nervous insiders pose as outsiders, and as entrenched incumbents pose as agents of change, skepticism jumps.

Herson has a good answer to voters, frustrated by such institutionalized phoniness, who want to know why sending a young man to Washington would be any different: "My generation is going to have to pay the bill for these deficits. I have a vested interest in turning the tax-and-spend system around."

And he has signed the "contract with America," with its term-limit pledge: for him, "three terms and I'm out." That means at 35, Herson (whom I have known since his boyhood - his mother was my office manager) will be able to seek legitimate work in the private sector.

But this microcosmic exploitation of voter distrust confronts us with another level of skepticism: How honest is anybody "running against Washington"? …

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