Seniority is a Liability
Whenever an incumbent is running for office, they will almost invariably turn to talk about how the length of time they have spent in that office as a means of proving that they know how to work things. You’ll see that same claim made at the federal, state, and local levels. Just as certainly, challengers will point to the length of service as a bad thing, a sign that they have made a comfortable career of what should be public service. Both of these sides have been going at it for years, but it looks like the pro-seniority side is starting to lose out.
One of the few positive things of the Tea Party crowd (and the members they are electing) is a vehement opposition to political elitism, including the practices associated with seniority. Instead of accepting that you have to outlast your peers to get your desired committee assignments, they have pushed for significantly more technocratic ways of committee selection based on ability. Senators like Rand Paul and Mike Lee (the latter of whom I have significant disagreements with) have managed to wield significant influence in the “deliberative” body of Congress despite being the new kids on the block.
So now that the influence of seniority isn’t as solid of an indicator of influence in the body, does it still have value? Not likely. Now that good ideas and ability are the currency of influence, being in office for a significant period of time without a significant list of accomplishments is a huge negative. Guys like Bennett, who seemingly accomplish little of what the general electorate cares for, get replaced by the brash go-getters who make things happen in short order.
Former State Sen. Dan Liljenquist accomplished two major reforms, state employee pensions and Medicaid, in just three years in office. Doesn’t this seem like the kind of guy who’d get things done in Washington? And, more importantly, don’t those seem like the right things to get done?