Mark Reardon (@MarkReardonKMOX)By Mark Reardon

Let me share a little of what I know about the swamp, a.k.a. Washington, D.C.. The President has promised to drain it, but realistically nobody is truly capable of doing that. I wish that wasn’t true, but from the dozen or so times I’ve visited our nation’s capitol over the past 15 years or so, I’ve gotten a chance to just scratch the surface of what goes on beyond the cameras, microphones and newspaper reporters. I’ve never witnessed anything illegal at all. Quite the contrary—just lobbyists hanging with lawmakers, attending fundraisers, passing along campaign donations and holding meetings with special interest groups.

I’ve always come away from my trips to D.C. feeling the same way—ain’t nobody gonna be able to change it. It’s such a thick, sludgy, maggot-infested (no offense to my good friends in government!) swamp that it’s nearly impossible to even drain the smallest amount of goop.

I bring this up in the aftermath of the Alabama special Senate election to point out that, while the swamp isn’t going to change, maybe the best we can do is to not elect kooks. Taking away all the allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, Roy Moore was a kook. I mean, he was Alabama’s kook—but he was a kook. We’re no strangers to those around these parts in Missouri (Todd Akin, Ed Martin, etc.) but this all points back to something I’ve been saying for a long time: THE QUALITY OF THE CANDIDATES MATTERS!

Whether it’s Sharon Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in New York or Todd Akin in Missouri – when primary voters choose a whackadoo, chances are you’re going to lose elections. And the key part of that is primary voters. I love our system, but because voter participation in primary elections, in particular, is so ridiculously low, it’s not too difficult to see how fringe candidates make it through to the general election. This whole “anti-establishment” movement is backfiring on the voters who are most demanding of a change. If you want to force real change, people are going to have to get off the sidelines and participate. That doesn’t just involve voting once every two or four years—that means paying attention during the important process of when these candidates are vetted and selected. If you live in Alabama and you didn’t vote in the primary, you don’t have a lot of room to complain about Roy Moore being your nominee. Even the President knew he was a kook, even though he might not use that exact word. But he knew.

Let’s use Missouri as an example of what is yet to come in U.S. Senate elections. If voters here nominate an off-the-grid, kooky, Steve Bannon-selected candidate, there’s an excellent chance Sen. Claire McCaskill wins in 2018. Don’t sit on the sidelines in the first half of 2018 and then expect to get your way in November if you’re a Republican voter. Be careful about labeling EVERY SINGLE person “establishment.” Be careful about assuming that because Donald Trump won Missouri by 19 points that just about anyone can waltz in next year and beat McCaskill. That’s unlikely to happen—just ask Roy Moore.

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