No, That Wasn’t John McCain’s Senate Seat
During a brief bout of insanity this spring, when I considered running for Virginia Beach City Council, I quickly developed a raging - some would say irrational - pet peeve:
Well-intentioned people innocently posing questions triggered it.
“You’re running for John Uhrin’s seat?” they’d ask politely.
“It isn’t John Uhrin’s seat,” I’d snarl, proving to myself and anyone within earshot that I didn’t have the temperament for politics. “It’s the Beach District seat. The people’s seat.
“Uhrin just happens to be sitting in it and someone needs to kick him out of it."
I couldn’t help myself. As a writer, I believe words matter. And I dislike this sloppy tendency to award public offices to individuals as if they own them. For one thing, it strengthens the power of incumbency, suggesting that challengers are trying to take something away from their rightful owners.
There was no escaping this nonsense yesterday when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he was appointing former Sen. Jon Kyl to the US Senate seat left vacant after John McCain’s death.
(That is the correct way to explain what happened, incidentally. Not that anyone in the media will take notice.)
“Arizona Gov. Ducey Chooses Ex-Sen. Kyl to Fill John McCain’s Seat,” bleated The Wall Street Journal.
No, just no.
“Arizona Governor Appoints ex-Sen. Jon Kyl to fill McCain’s Seat,” squealed The Washington Post.
For God’s sake, you’re the paper of record in Washington. Try harder.
“Former Senator Jon Kyl Will Fill John McCain’s Seat,” bawled Time Magazine.
Par for the course, Time. Expect very little from you anymore.
On a lark I Googled “John McCain’s seat” and got 18,900 hits. That’s 18,899 too many.
It may seem pedantic to demand that headline writers remember that US Senate seats belong to the voters.
But it’s important.
The minute we accept that elected offices are the property of the occupants, we’re headed down the highway of political dynasties.
And haven’t all Americans had enough of that?