The House bank scandal claimed its first real victim in Illinois Tuesday. Rep. Charles Hayes lost largely because he was one of the worst abusers of the system, guilty of writing 716 checks for which he had insufficient funds on deposit. Many more victims may yet come to grief.
For a disaffected public, Bankgate is only the latest in a long list of transgressions that have brought Congress into disrepute. As a result, the anti-incumbent movement is in full flood -- a product of S&L scandals, the forced resignation of a speaker of the House, sneaky congressional pay raises, the proliferation of perks and the inability of an arrogant Congress to solve problems. The mood behind the movement has been building for some time. In the 1990 general election, the average vote percentage for incumbents was the lowest since 1974, when 92 incumbents quit or were defeated.
Three ousted incumbents (two others lost to fellow incumbents in merged districts) may not seem like a large number. There have been primaries in 58 congressional districts in Maryland, Mississippi, Texas and Illinois this year. Incumbents won in 55. But that total of three after only four states' primaries has to be seen in historical context. In 1990 and 1988, one representative lost in a primary. In 1986, three; in 1984, two; in 1982, four.