The term carpetbaggers was also used to describe the white northern Republican politicians who came South, arriving with their travel carpetbags. Southerners considered them ready to loot and plunder the defeated South.
In modern usage in the United States, the term is sometimes used derisively to refer to a politician who runs for public office in an area in which he or she is not originally from and/or has only lived for a very short time.”
Merriam-Webster’s online definition is quite simple:
“Main Entry: car•pet•bag•ger
Etymology: from their carrying all their belongings in carpetbags
1 : a Northerner in the South after the American Civil War usually seeking private gain under the reconstruction governments
2 : outsider; especially : a nonresident or new resident who seeks private gain from an area often by meddling in its business or politics”
It is a simple term that is poignantly appropriate for Orange County politics. The 2009/2010 special election in California’s 72nd Assembly District had a candidate, Linda Ackerman, who registered in the 72nd AD within days of the early resignation of Mike Duval. The fact that she physically lived in a gated Irvine community but was “renting” a room in Fullerton from some old friends was made public and I believe was a significant factor in her loss of the election to long-time resident Chris Norby. At the time of the special election, Norby was an Orange County Supervisor. With his election to the State Assembly, a void was created in the 4th District office. To fill the void, a myriad of candidates have appeared, two with their carpetbags in hand.
What is it that happens in a person’s mind that causes them to think that it is acceptable to run for an office for which they shouldn’t? The practice of carpetbagging is wrong on many levels.
It is wrong and unethical for, as Merriam-Webster states, a non-resident or new resident to seek private gain from an area by meddling in its business or politics. It is not as though there are no qualified candidates, although some may argue my use of the word qualified. In the case of the 4th District election, there are at least four candidates who meet the voting requirements and two others who have changed their place of residency within days of announcing their intentions to run for office.
(Lorri Galloway, Carpetbagger)
“But the candidate really understands our needs and local issues. Why shouldn’t I vote for them?” To understand why constituents should not get your vote and why it is unethical and wrong for you to give them your vote, let us look at history.
First, let’s dig into the Old Testament. Proverbs 22:28 states “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” What does that statement have to do with carpetbagging? Proverbs points out the sanctity and importance of boundaries. Deuteronomy re-states this in 19:14 with “Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” And just what can a trespasser expect? Deuteronomy 27:17, “‘Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor's boundary stone.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” These are ancient precepts that are literally the bounds of a civilized society.
Boundaries are an ancient concept in deed. As many land surveyors know, the Greeks had a goddess, Terminus, for overseeing boundaries. The Roman poet, Ovid, wrote the following in Fasti (Book 2), translated by James G. Frazer:
"When the night had passed, see to it that the god who marks the boundaries of the tilled lands receives his wonted honour. O Terminus, whether thou art a stone or stump buried in the field, thou too hast been deified from days of yore. Thou art crowned by two owners on opposite sides; they bring thee two garlands and two cakes. An altar is built. Hither the husbandman’s rustic wife brings with her own hands on a potsherd the fire which she has taken from the warm hearth. The old man chops wood, and deftly piles up the billets, and strives to fix the branches in the solid earth: then he nurses the kindling flames with dry bark, the boy stands by and holds the broad basket in his hands. When from the basket he had thrice thrown corn into the midst of the fire, the little daughter presents the cut honeycombs. Others hold vessels of wine. A portion of each is cast into the flames. The company dressed in white look on and hold their peace. Terminus himself, at the meeting of the bounds, is sprinkled with the blood of a slaughtered lamb, and grumbles not when a suckling pig is given him. The simple neighbours meet and hold a feast, and sing thy praises, holy Terminus: “Thou dost set bounds to peoples and cities and vast kingdoms; without thee every field would be a root of wrangling. Thou courtest no favour thou art bribed by no gold: the lands entrusted to thee thou dost guard in loyal good faith. If thou of old hadst marked the bounds of the Thyrean land, three hundred men had not been done to death, nor had the name of Othryades been read on the piled arms. O how he made his fatherland to bleed! What happened when the new Capitol was being built? Why, the whole company of gods withdrew before Jupiter and made room for him; but Terminus, as the ancients relate, remained where he was found in the shrine, and shares the temple with great Jupiter. Even to this day there is a small hole in the roof of the temple, that he may see naught above him but the stars. From that abide in that station in which thou hast been placed. Yield not an inch to a neighbour, though he ask thee, lest thou shouldst seem to value man above Jupiter. And whether they beat thee with ploughshares or with rakes, cry out, ‘This is thy land, and that is his.’” There is a way that leads folk to the Laurentine fields, the kingdom once sought by the Dardanian chief: on that way the sixth milestone from the City witnesses the sacrifice of the woolly sheep’s guts to thee, Terminus. The land of other nations has a fixed boundary: the circuit of Rome is the circuit of the world."
In Medieval England (and even currently in some regions) a “beating of the bounds” was performed wherein a young person, often a child, was held upside down and their head hit against the boundary markers. (Brown’s Boundary Control and Legal Principles, fourth edition, John-Wiley & Sons, Inc.) The idea being that the child would never forget what happened and where the boundary marker was located. The event was carried out throughout England almost as a holiday festival.
So, why is it so hard for those with political ambitions to realize the physical limitations of their ambitions? If I were to walk into my neighbor’s home and tell him or her how to run their home and then hold my hand out for a paycheck, I wouldn’t be greeted with open arms. Isn’t that what these carpetbaggers of late are doing?
(Former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, Carpetbagger)
Hillary Clinton’s ambition for a senate seat took her to New York where she was somehow able to win election. It may have been the novelty of having this former First Lady representing them, the fact that she would be the first female senator to represent New York, or just a general lack of understanding by the constituents. Either way, they got what they elected. She was first elected in 2000 and was re-elected in 2006. In 2008, she quit being a senator four years early to run for President (ok, she might not have resigned but she wasn’t exactly representing New York at that point).