With apologies to Terry Teachout, a few thoughts about last night:
–Is enough never enough? I was glad to see Specter defeated, but it struck me as sad and pathetic when he left the podium after conceding and a few of his family members and/or supporters at the front began chanting “Arlen” at him in an attempt to make him feel better. This is what he was reduced to. He’s 80 years old and has had a long and (by the lights of some) storied career, and he couldn’t find some way to bow out gracefully before dragging himself through the ignominy of switching parties and getting rejected by the Democrats, too? (It was entirely predictable that he was going to lose one way or the other.) I had a similar thought earlier in the day about Dick Blumenthal: He has a perfectly fine resume and was on a track that would eventually make him the next senator from Connecticut, but he couldn’t settle for that and had to embellish his record in a shameful way. Maybe we should be grateful that our politicians provide such a dramatic warning about the perils of the insatiable ego.
–The insurgency within the GOP is on. Rand Paul’s victory is another sign that there’s a roiling, libertarian revolt within the GOP that is likely to fuel an out-of-nowhere Dean-style “Republican-wing of the Republican party” candidate for 2012. The way Dean represented a rejection of Clintonism, this candidate will represent a rejection of Bushism. He may upset the apple cart on foreign policy the way Dean did–perhaps by calling for a pull-out from Afghanistan. He will be hell on Washington and anyone and anything who represents the establishment. It’s going to be a very tough road for an establishment front-runner who is already a little shaky, which is why last night was another warning sign for Romney.
–Will it be possible to hang Pelosi on conservative Democrats? Jay Cost has a typically excellent piece arguing against making too much of PA-12. Maybe this district is just too Democratic. But Republicans are going to have to be able to take out Mark Critz-like Democrats. It’s amazing that such Democrats get away with selling themselves as conservatives, while at the same time the single most important vote they cast is for Nancy Pelosi. As long as she’s speaker, obviously, she has tremendous power to set the agenda and game the votes of conservative Democrats–releasing those that aren’t necessary, squeezing those she needs–to pass sweeping liberal legislation. Republicans will have to figure out what, if anything, they can do to better make this case.