I think it was a tactical mistake to nominate Christine O’Donnell. And I think there was way too much shoot-the-messenger b.s. from O’Donnell supporters aimed at sincere conservatives who took this position. The charge that anyone who thinks O’Donnell is a sub-optimal candidate is somehow a quisling to liberalism is both slimy and silly. I’d be happy to re-argue all of that, but there’s no point now. O’Donnell won and I sincerely hope she proves all the naysayers wrong. Time will tell.
But, even from my alleged “sell-out” position, there’s some great news to take out of Delaware. The liberal spin on the O’Donnell victory seems to be that the tea parties have reached their high water mark, that the Republican establishment has created a tea-fueled Frankenstein’s monster, that by “sowing hysteria” the Republicans are now getting their much deserved blowback in Delaware.
A year ago, the notion that the Republicans had even a dream of taking back the senate was considered delusional. Heck, a year ago, the notion that the Republicans could take back the House was more than far-fetched. And 20 months ago, liberals were telling us we had a “a new liberal order” on our hands and that conservatism was discredited and done for (see my column today). That entire temple of conventional wisdom has come crashing down, thanks in large part to the Herculean efforts of the tea partiers. Let’s say the “establishment” turns out to be right about O’Donnell’s chances in the general. That proves what about the tea parties? That they are a liability for the GOP and conservatism?
What it proves is that amidst a massive and massively successful grassroots uprising, the tea parties miscalculated in one race. Unfortunate, but hardly calamitous.
The Americans surely botched a battle or two during the Second World War. But no British statesman would say “Man, we really blew it aligning ourselves with the yanks.”
You can’t play out the “what ifs” with any certainty, but it seems pretty obvious to me that if the tea parties hadn’t been around, doing what they do, the GOP, the conservative movement and the country would be in far worse shape today. It’s hardly as if the folks in the White House or over at the DNC are suddenly sleeping a whole lot better because they might hang on to the Vice President’s former senate seat, while probably losing the president’s, Harry Reid’s, Russ Feingold’s and maybe even Barbara Boxer’s. And, even if this costs the GOP a senate majority, most political observers know that winning back the senate matters less than destroying the filibuster-proof majority. And the GOP will do that with room to spare (thanks to the tea parties).
When you have an organic grassroots uprising, it’s sort of silly to expect that it will make every decision with surgical skill and perfect foresight. Indeed, the attempt to play mincing games of compromise threatens to cool the very passions that have gotten us this far. In this Rush, I think, is basically right.
Would I still prefer it if the tea parties had found a stronger candidate? Of course. Do I think it’s better to have a moderate Republican than a liberal Democrat in that seat? Yes (tea partiers certainly understood this with the Scott Brown election).
But I’d rather see the tea parties go too far here and there while shooting for the moon than see them go not far enough everywhere. And I’m glad the message coming out of Delaware to everyone in the tea parties’ way, Republican and Democrat alike, is: Watch out.