The Corner

Chris Coons, Party Man

In the context of a larger piece about Coons’s down-the-line fidelity to the Democratic party’s positions on the stimulus, health care, abortion, financial reform, taxes, etc., I noted that, in addition to all this, Coons stepped up to run what looked at the time like a hopeless race against Delaware institution Mike Castle, so that party favorite Beau Biden wouldn’t have to associate himself with the ignominy of a major loss: 

In a wave election year where voter sentiment is running strongly against the Democratic party, Coons is the epitome of a party apparatchik. When all signs were pointing toward Mike Castle’s being the Republican nominee, Coons was recruited by Democratic elders to run against him, and he gladly accepted the mission, despite its apparent futility. Castle, a fixture of Delaware politics and winner of eleven straight statewide elections, was expected to win the seat walking away. Ted Kaufman, the longtime Biden aide who took over Biden’s seat, had already announced that he wouldn’t run. Most political observers assumed that Kaufman was keeping the seat warm for Biden’s son, Beau, an Iraq War veteran currently serving as Delaware’s attorney general. Beau was widely expected to run in 2010, but last January, following the Scott Brown stunner in Massachusetts, Biden fils announced that maybe this just wasn’t his year. The party needed someone else to get beaten by Castle, so — loyal party man that he is — Coons stepped up to take the fall.

Jonathan Chait, in what I take to be sarcasm, writes that my only evidence for thinking that Coons is a party apparatchik is that he “is running for the Senate — as a Democrat!” But that’s obviously not what I said. I said that, among other things we know about Coons, we know he entered a statewide race as a major underdog to help his party keep a better candidate on the shelf for a later point in time, when that candidate would have a better shot at getting elected.

Chait took his cue from David Weigel, who wrote, “You know who else this could describe? Scott Brown! After Mitt Romney and Andy Card passed on the race, Brown, a state senator, stepped up to challenge likely Democratic nominee Martha Coakley.”

Weigel has a point. This could describe Scott Brown, if Brown had been, in all of the other ways I describe in my piece, a down-the-line party man the way Coons is. But Brown ran as a moderate on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and it was clear from the beginning he was no Tom Coburn, not even a Mitch McConnell. In other words, it could describe Scott Brown — if Scott Brown weren’t Scott Brown.

Look, I’m plenty familiar with this phenomenon. It’s called “aggressively missing someone else’s point in the service of saying something superficially insightful,” and it is a hazard of blogging, which sometimes involves writing a post just because it’s been awhile, even if you don’t have anything interesting to say. No worries, guys. You do what you gotta do.

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