Incumbent


Incumbent

The incumbent, in politics, is the existing holder of a political office. This term is usually used in reference to elections, in which races can often be defined as being between an incumbent and non-incumbent(s). For example, in the 2004 United States presidential election, George W. Bush was the incumbent, because he was the president in the current term while the election sought to determine the president for the following term. A race without an incumbent is referred to as an open seat.

Contents

Etymology

The word "incumbent" is derived from the Latin verb incumbere, literally meaning "to lean or lay upon" with the present participle stem incumbent-, "leaning a variant of encumber,[1] while encumber is derived from the root cumber,[2] most appropriately defined: "4. To occupy obstructively or inconveniently; to block fill up with what hinders freedom of motion or action; to burden, load."[3]

Politics

In general, incumbents have structural advantages over challengers during elections. The timing of elections may be determined by the incumbent instead of a set schedule. For most political offices, the incumbent often has more name recognition due to their previous work in the office. Incumbents also have easier access to campaign finance, as well as government resources (such as the franking privilege) that can be indirectly used to boost a campaign. An election (especially for a legislature) in which no incumbent is running is often called an open seat; because of the lack of incumbency advantage, these are often amongst the most hotly-contested races in any election.

In the United States, incumbents traditionally win their party's nomination to run for office. Unseating an incumbent president, senator or other figure during a primary election is very difficult, and even in the general election, incumbents have a very strong record. For instance, the percentage of incumbents who win reelection after seeking it in the U.S. House of Representatives has been over 80% for over 50 years, and is often over 90%.[4]. However, this rate may be artificially inflated, as incumbents that feel unlikely to win may decline to run for reelection. Additionally, shifts in congressional districts due to reapportionment or other longer-term factors may make it more or less likely for an incumbent to win re-election over time. For example, a Democratic incumbent in historically conservative rural Texas would have less chance of winning than a Democratic incumbent in historically liberal New York City, because Texas has shifted away from the Democratic Party in terms of voting while New York City has shifted toward the same party (see also Congressional stagnation in the United States).

However, there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challenger demonstrates this fact to the voters. An anti-incumbency factor can also be responsible for bringing down incumbents who have been in office for many successive terms in spite of performance indicators, simply because the voters are convinced by the challenger of a need for change.

When newcomers vie to fill an open office, voters tend to compare and contrast the candidates' qualifications, issues positions and personal characteristics in a relatively straightforward way. Elections featuring an incumbent, on the other hand, are as Guy Molyneux puts it, "fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent."[5] Voters will first grapple with the record of the incumbent. Only if they decide to "fire" the incumbent do they begin to evaluate whether the challenger is an acceptable alternative. At the same time, if the challenger is determined to be wholly unacceptable, voters might reluctantly vote for the incumbent.

Business

In business the term "incumbent" is used for the largest company in a certain industry, for instance the traditional phone company in telecommunications, typically called the "incumbent operator". In a sales process, such as public tender, incumbent may also refer to the vendor that has the largest existing commercial relationship with the issuer of the tender.

In large corporations it is the incumbent who is the holder of an office, or one that occupies a particular position.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ OED (1989), p. 834
  2. ^ OED (1989), p. 218
  3. ^ OED (1989), p. 124
  4. ^ "Re-Election Rates Over the Years". Opensecrets.org. http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/reelect.php. Retrieved August 31, 2011. 
  5. ^ Guy Molyneux, The Big Five-Oh, The American Prospect, 1 October 2004.

References


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • incumbent — I noun bureaucrat, commissioner, dignitary, functionary, holder of an office, job holder, minister, occupant of an office, officebearer, officeholder, officer, official, person in authority associated concepts: de facto incumbent, incumbent… …   Law dictionary

  • Incumbent — In*cum bent, a. [L. incumbens, entis, p. pr. of incumbere to lie down upon, press upon; pref. in in, on + cumbere (in comp.); akin to cubare to lie down. See {Incubate}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Lying; resting; reclining; recumbent; superimposed;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • incumbent — [in kum′bənt] adj. [L incumbens, prp. of incumbere, to recline or rest on < in , on + cubare, to lie down: see CUBE1] 1. lying, resting, or pressing with its weight on something else 2. currently in office n. the holder of an office or… …   English World dictionary

  • Incumbent — In*cum bent, n. A person who is in present possession of a benefice or of any office. [1913 Webster] The incumbent lieth at the mercy of his patron. Swift. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Incumbent — Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC; deutsch: Etablierter Betreiber von Ortsnetzen) ist der auch im Deutschen gebräuchliche Fachbegriff in der Marktregulierung der Telekommunikation für bei der Marktöffnung bereits auf einem Markt etablierte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • incumbent — INCUMBÉNT, Ă adj. (bot.; despre organe) culcat pe un alt organ, fără să concrească cu acesta. (< engl. incumbent, lat. incumbens) Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • incumbent — ► ADJECTIVE 1) (incumbent on/upon) necessary for (someone) as a duty. 2) currently holding office. ► NOUN ▪ the holder of an office or post. ORIGIN Latin incumbens, from incumbere lie or lean on …   English terms dictionary

  • incumbent on — index mandatory, obligatory, requisite Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • incumbent — ▪ I. incumbent in‧cum‧bent 1 I ve split the sense into two. [ɪnˈkʌmbənt] noun [countable] 1. the person who has a particular job or position at this time, rather than one who wants it or may have it later: • Nine out of ten incumbents who seek re …   Financial and business terms

  • incumbent — in|cum|bent1 [ınˈkʌmbənt] n formal [Date: 1400 1500; : Latin; Origin: , present participle of incumbere to lie down on ] someone who has been elected to an official position, especially in politics, and who is doing that job at the present time ▪ …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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