September 15, 2010
As if Joe Miller's victory in the recent Alaska primary election weren't proof enough, Tuesday night's upset victory by Christine O'Donnell leaves no doubt that the Tea Party movement is in the driver's seat. The young "grassroots conservative" candidate created a sensation that shocked the Delaware political establishment. The "Tea Party Express" has been calling the presumptive winner of the senate seat, Rep. Mike Castle, a "liberal RINO." He apparently voted in favor of Pres. Obama's highly dubious "cap and trade" energy legislation, an unforgiveable sin, in many quarters.
As someone who is deeply ambivalent about the Tea Party, agreeing with its professed principles but alienated by their leaders' populist rhetoric and wary of their partisan infighting, I didn't have a strong preference in this race. As I wrote on Carl Tate's Facebook page:
Who cares??? Delaware Republicans had two mediocre candidates to choose from, each mediocre in their own way. As Carl said yesterday, it is a bitter dilemma. The failure of the party to function as it is supposed to -- recruiting winning candidates -- makes getting a GOP Senate majority a very long shot.
Rush Limbaugh practically admitted as much today, albeit unintentionally, when he said that getting 51 seats in the Senate wouldn't matter much anyway. Sour grapes, in advance.
Limbaugh also said it's better to have a Marxist in the White House than a pretend conservative who often votes like a Marxist. (What??!!) Rush really lost control of his hyperbolic rhetoric, and I'm getting tired of his rants.
For me, one way to evaluate O'Donnell is her past affiliation with George W. Bush. Is she really a "grassroots" activist? Her years working for the Republican National Committee in Washington would call into question such a claim. She seems to be the archetypal social conservative populist spawned by the Bush-Rove political machine. That's why I was taken aback when I saw Rove arguing with Sean Hannity on FOX News last night. For once in my life, I found myself agreeing with Karl Rove, that O'Donnell lacks the requisite experience to serve effectively as U.S. senator, and that her many financial problems raise doubt about her judgment. Andrew Sullivan also picked up on the huge irony:
"But we also can't make progress if we have candidates who got serious character problems ... [O'Donnell] attacked [Castle] by saying he had a homosexual relationship with a young aide with not a bit of evidence to prove it," - Karl Rove.
I'm ashamed to say it's hard not to take some pleasure in Rove being Roved. Couldn't happen to a more deserving creep.
Not surprisingly, Facebook friend Bruce Bartlett "has never been happier not to be a Republican than tonight." My reaction was rather different:
As Andrew Sullivan wrote, becoming a conservative requires overcoming some painful loss in one's own life, and applying the tragic experience to minimize further loss of what is most precious, in the public sphere and in the private sphere. After the tragedy in Delaware, I'm feeling very conservative. How's that for irony?
In sum, this "mad as hell" populist wave, as exemplified by Christine O'Donnell, poses a real risk of ruining what's left of the Republican Party, turning it from a fractious amalgam of loosely-connected interests into a vast mob of angry simpletons. (Oh, oh, does that sound elitist of me?) I hope common sense prevails before it's too late, but I wouldn't count on it.
christineodonnell.com is perhaps the only political Web site I've ever seen in which the only content is an online donation form. Shouldn't the candidate be providing voters with biographical or career details? I was wondering whether she qualifies for the minimum age requirement to serve in the U.S. Senate (30), but according to the often-reliable Wikipedia, she's 41.
It's not often that Delaware makes the news, other than when a plane carrying the bodies of fallen American service personnel returns from overseas. On its vehicle license plates, Delaware claims to be the "first state," based on its having been the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, on December 7, 1787. Then there's hard blues-rocker George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers: "Move over nice dog, a mean old dog is movin' in."
Another case in which the Tea Party is raising hell and causing more GOP infighting is Colorado, where the Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper has a commanding lead because the Republicans have split apart. Hickenlooper, who has been a successful entrepreneur and is the current mayor of Denver, is ahead of Republican Dan Maes and way ahead of former Republican Tom Tancredo, a populist favored by the Tea Party who is running as a candidate of the American Constitution Party. See www.rasmussenreports.com. In another place and time, Hickenlooper might be a fine Republican candidate. See www.hickenlooperforcolorado.com, and a video at youtube.com. As for Tom Tancredo, Susan Davis assesses his problems at the Wall Street Journal blog. Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams (who also was the campaign director for then-Sen. George Allen in 2006) told the Denver Post, "Tom Tancredo has nobody's interest in mind other than his own." Ineresting.
Last Friday afternoon, Rep. Bob Goodlatte spoke to a small group of supporters at the grand opening of the Augusta County Republican headquarters. He talked about the huge importance not only of stopping the Democrats' big government agenda, but of restoring freedom and free enterprise in this country. Del. Dickie Bell and Augusta County GOP chairman Bill Shirley also spoke for a few minutes. Unlike two years ago, when Democrat Sam Rasoul was a candidate, this year Goodlatte faces no opposition. In the neighboring districts, the Republican challengers have an excellent chance of winning: Robert Hurt in the Fifth District, and Morgan Griffith in the Ninth. The Republican Party in Virginia has gone through similar fratricidal conflicts over the past few years, but the tension seems to have subsided, thankfully.
My comment to Shaun Kenney on Facebook:
Loyalty can be a virtue, but placing an exaggerated value on loyalty, as was the case in the Bush administration, distorts perceptions of reality and leads to bad policy. It also paves the way for rogue leaders to rise to power.