Friday, September 17, 2010

The Unmaking of the GOP

E.J. Dionne has a very good column in The Washington Post today, reflecting on longtime Republican Congressman Mike Castle’s embarrassing loss this week to the more ideologically right-wing Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party favorite, in Delaware’s primary race for a U.S. Senate seat. He writes, in part:
Castle’s defeat at the hands of Christine O’Donnell, a perennial candidate who may be the least qualified Senate nominee anywhere in the country, does indeed mark the collapse of the Republican Party not only of Nelson Rockefeller and Tom Dewey but also of Bob Dole and Howard Baker.

After two decades in which moderates fled a party increasingly dominated by its right wing, the Republican primary electorate has been reduced to nothing but its right wing. O’Donnell, boosted by a last minute anti-Castle spending spree from the California-based Tea Party Express, pulled off her revolution with a little more than 30,000 votes. That’s all it took to seize control of a once Grand Old Party in which the center no longer has the troops. ...

Yes, the Tea Party has just about handed Delaware’s Senate election to Democratic nominee Chris Coons, the young New Castle County executive who was transformed from an underdog to Castle on Tuesday morning to the overwhelming favorite against O’Donnell by late evening.

But the larger question is whether the country is ready to deliver a majority to a Republican Party that now holds problem-solvers like Castle in contempt; is scared to death of a well-financed right wing that parades under a false populist banner; and, in primary after primary, has aligned itself with Sarah Palin, who anointed O’Donnell one of her Grizzlies.

Will moderate voters take a chance on the preposterous proposition that this Republican Party will turn around and work in a calm, bipartisan way with President Obama? Or will they use their ballots to wake up the Republicans and tell them that they need more Mike Castles, and fewer extremists?
We can hope that what few remaining “adults” there are under the GOP tent will take their party back from the insurgents now holding it hostage, but I don’t expect that will happen anytime soon. The Republican Party is bound to go through a very trying period in the near future, as its weak leaders endeavor--and fail--to satisfy the extremists who don’t care about governing, but only about undoing decades of social progress, reducing public oversight of business, and bankrupting the national treasury with tax cuts for the well-to-do.

READ MORE:The Effect of Fringe Successes,” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly); “OD’d in Delaware,” by Clive Crook (The Atlantic); “David Brooks and the Possible Backlash Against the Tea Party GOP,” by Michael J.W. Stickings (The Reaction); “A GOP Senate Would Battle Obama on the Surface, but Itself Within,” by Patricia Murphy (Politics Daily).

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