The XX Factor

Kelly Ayotte Should Really Go to Washington

New Hampshire’s newly elected Sen. Kelly Ayotte defeated her opponent by a vote of nearly 2 to 1. She ran a disciplined campaign as the state’s former attorney general, portraying herself, of course, as a Washington outsider, a newcomer and a fresh voice for change. A rare stumble came when e-mails surfaced between Ayotte and an adviser over a recent case in which Ayotte, in deciding to seek the death penalty for a homicide, appeared to be considering the decision’s affect on her political future, but any downtick in the polls was brief and short-lived. New Hampshire voters, it seems, don’t really care if a their politicians seem to be considering politics as long as they also manage to do their jobs.

That’s a message I hope Ayotte hears as she prepares for her six-year term. Ayotte is a mother of young children and campaigned on a promise not to move her family to Washington. That’s a promise she should break. Newcomers, fresh voices, and outsiders sound good, but what New Hampshire, and the rest of the country, really needs are career politicians-career governors, really, in the lowercase sense of the word-willing to pick up and move themselves and their lives all the way to Washington in order to better serve their constituents. Ayotte claims to believe she’ll stay more in touch with voters if she keeps her home base in her home state, but she’ll be able to accomplish more for those voters if she does the Senate the old-fashioned way, creating a new social and political base for herself in the place where the real decisions are made.

That’s true not just of Ayotte but of all of the newly elected legislators. The trend for the past few years has been for politicians to camp out in Washington and live at home, keeping themselves pure of the old socializing and back-room dealing that once led to compromise. But politics is (or should be) about more than just getting elected.  This year, it’s about the economy, the deficit, immigration reform, and 100 other issues that have been more the subject of vague speechifying than actual, concrete proposals for change. Rhetoric and campaigning at home have delivered the “new blood” to Washington. Is it too much to ask that they actually go there and get something done?