Just over a week ago, politician Kimberly Klacik of Baltimore County, Md., reached across the land to back a candidate in a New Mexico special election.
“Elisa Martinez is an exciting, dynamic rising star in the Republican Party, and my PAC, Red Renaissance, is proud to fully endorse her today!” Klacik wrote.
Soon after, Martinez lost the Republican nomination for Congress in the Albuquerque-based 1st District. Martinez finished a weak third, receiving fewer than half as many votes as the winner, state Sen. Mark Moores.
It was Martinez’s second primary defeat in less than a year. Television weatherman Mark Ronchetti trounced her in June for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat.
So much for the power of being “a rising star.” It’s been a cliché of American politics for a decade — one even more prevalent than “mean streets” or “now more than ever.”
Klacik herself was trumpeted last year by Snopes.com as “a fast-rising star” in the Republican Party.
By then, Klacik had already lost in a landslide to Democrat Kweisi Mfume in a special election to represent Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.
Mfume would rout Klacik again seven months later in the November general election.
Klacik didn’t receive 30 percent of the vote in either election. Yet in some quarters she’s still hailed as a rising star.
Those who used the term so loosely either didn’t consult a dictionary or they followed the lead of then-President Donald Trump.
Trump took a liking to Klacik after she ran a television ad showing her walking through depressed West Baltimore. With each step, she blamed Democrats for all the poverty, crime and addiction. So much for the matter of personal responsibility that her Republican Party used to emphasize.
Across the years, many other politicians had spoken of the “mean streets” in that same West Baltimore neighborhood. They said “now more than ever” a city and a country needed strong leadership.
“Rising stars” who lose elections aren’t just found in the Republican Party. Democrats and many writing about them are just as trite. A quick review of news clippings turned up these examples from the last year.
- From the New York Times: “When Rep. Joe Kennedy, a rising star in the House, entered the race, it looked as if [Sen. Ed] Markey would lose. No Kennedy had ever lost an election in Massachusetts.” Well, not until Joe Kennedy flamed out like an overrated comet.
- From the Times of Northwest Indiana: “Arguably its most conspicuous rising star, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, opted for the 2020 presidential race instead of running for governor.” Why should a beacon of the sky settle for a statehouse instead of the White House?
- Democratic state Rep. John Carmichael of Wichita was quoted in the Kansas City Star, a newspaper that established celestial status in 1880: “Kris Kobach is a political tragedy. He was the rising star in Republican Kansas politics.” In only 21 months, Kobach lost a general election for governor of Kansas and a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.
Now a politician with more upside than Kobach ever had might be on a downward trajectory. I’m referring to South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem. Her anti-mask, anti-shutdown stands had her riding high with Trump’s loyalists in particular and the GOP in general.
But Noem last week became a target of heavy criticism from Republican-friendly commentators after backpedaling on a bill she had promised to sign.
The measure would ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s college sports in South Dakota. Critics say Noem cowered to the NCAA, which might have pulled tournaments from her state.
Noem says the critics are wrong, that she simply wanted to streamline the bill to high school activities that are controlled at the state level.
Noem’s clash with fellow Republicans is just as well. With all those rising stars in politics, mediocrity was in danger of extinction.