Cennamology Chief Editor
It's not every day when I am a little sad when a Republican loses. But Tuesday was one of them.
Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mi.) was defeated in the Republican primary by attorney David Trott. Trott, who specialized in foreclosures, has the nickname of "foreclosure king." The advantage of incumbency was nowhere to be found in the 11th district primary, as Bentivolio lost 66 percent to 34 percent.
This result saddens me because Bentivolio's political career is one of luck and determination, with a dose of inspiration as well. Known as "The Accidental Congressman," Bentivolio won his seat after Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was unable to qualify for the ballot in 2012 after his staff turned in forged signatures. Bentivolio, then seen as a long-shot perennial candidate, was left as the only person on the Republican primary ballot.
Trott, who made millions and millions of dollars during the foreclosure crisis and used that money to fund his campaign, ran because he just wanted to be a Congressman. His views differ little from Bentivolio's and it is very unlikely that his voting record will be very different either. Bentivolio''s voting record is one of a candidate whom I would vote against in a general election - he voted against reopening the government after the shutdown, Hurricane Sandy aid, any shred of immigration reform, and voted in favor of suing the president. Even though Bentivolio is a Tea Partier, he is preferable (to me) over Trott because at least he's a Middle Class American - a breed that is alarmingly sparse in Congress.
What's funny is that Michigan Republicans have thrown a mall Santa Claus and reindeer farmer out of Congress in favor of a guy who foreclosed on a family's house and kicked them out on Christmas Eve. And they say Democrats are the ones waging the War on Christmas? Republicans, almost literally, had a chance to send Santa back for Congress and they did not, instead preferring pre-reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge.
Bentivolio's time in Congress has been largely about learning the ropes of the job, as his job experience differs from the rest of Congress as the body's only reindeer farmer. Trott criticized Bentivolio over the primary for not holding enough town hall meetings during his tenure. Town halls, which can frequently be very hostile environments, put a lot of pressure on the politicians that hold them, and Bentivolio probably wanted to get used to the political environment and work on explaining the issues clearly instead of risking embarrassment during a town hall. Not everybody has to be a seasoned lawyer and a flawless speaker in order to be a decent congressman, something Trott does not understand.
Even though Bentivolio was not a member of the establishment, it's not like he was particularly crazy by Republican standards. He has never been very headline-worthy embarrassing for the party, and he is quite sane when compared to the GOP greats like Steve King, Michele Bachmann, and Louie Gohmert. The only thing Bentivolio has said that has garnered attention from the beltway media was when he said that impeaching the president was a "dream." But, let's face it, probably all Republicans in Congress have dreamed that - saying impeachment is a "dream" does not make Bentivolio unique among the GOP. Give the guy credit for at least admitting that there is nothing he could impeach the president for.
Bentivolio's defeat may make one question whether a common man can fit in and succeed in Congress these days. Bentivolio's "Accidental Congressman" label and the view that he only made it to Congress on a technicality may have led to other Republicans' alienating him. However, there is hope for us common folk who may want to serve in elected office some day, as Bentivolio said in an interview with The Daily Beast that he feels more comfortable at his current job than any other one he has had, and that constituent services are the most rewarding part of the job. Bentivolio's disdain for the role of money in politics (Trott raised nearly eight times the money he did), an issue with which I concur, makes him the Dave Brat candidate before anyone had ever heard of Dave Brat.
The "Accidental Congressman" label was largely used to discredit Bentivolio, and it was seen as an obstacle. One thing Bentivolio should have done is use that label to his advantage. Everybody loves an underdog, and the story of his ascension to Congress is the chronicle of an all-American underdog. He entered the race against McCotter with seemingly impossible odds, running a campaign that not even his family took seriously with a budget that a city council candidate would scoff at. But with determination, and undoubtedly some luck, he defied the odds. I do not care how crazy some of his views may be, but that is a story of a man that I can root for.
Bentivolio's struggle for acceptance may have ultimately been unsuccessful, but he did manage to make a few friends. The 11th district's primary apparently split the 2012 Republican Presidential ticket, with Mitt Romney endorsing and hosting fundraisers for David Trott, while Bentivolio told The Daily Beast that Paul Ryan personally told him that he'd endorse him. Big surprise that the richer of the two of them endorsed a fellow multi-millionaire vulture capitalist. Bentivolio also told the Beast that Darrell Issa, who is now the richest man in Congress, told him that he wanted him to win. However, Issa did not give one penny to Bentivolio's campaign, with the fear that he would alienate a fellow multi-millionaire.
Bentivolio's loss means that Congress will lose its only reindeer farmer and mall Santa, and will gain yet another millionaire lawyer, which are more prevalent in D.C. than humid summer weather. Politics is a club, and Bentivolio was able to get in without an invitation. However, those who run the club were sure to kick him out at the first chance they got.