The Republican primary season ending on Sept. 14, 2010 will likely be remembered as a watershed season — when Sept. 14, 2010 confirmed the death of “compassionate conservatism.”
It was a long, lingering death. The first signals of its birth emerged in 1980. Ronald Reagan, the former California Governor who came into office and vowed to — and did — cut the government and many programs nonetheless pressed hard for immigration reform that included the legalization of many illegal immigrants who were already here and a government crackdown on employers. The first step occurred; the second didn’t really materialize due to vested interests in both parties that looked the other way to allow less costly illegal immigrant labor.
Then came George H.W. Bush who promised a “kinder, gentler America” — another step in trying to declare conservatism a more accessible blend, in a sense co-opting certain elements of the dying “country club Republicanism” also known as moderate Republicanism. Or at least in tone: the talk was about expanding the Republican tent…reaching out to Latinos and minority voters, even if the GOP didn’t get them. But not conceeding voting blocs to the Dems.
Bush’s son George W. Bush took it one step further about talking about “compassionate conservatism” — talking in Spanish, defending Muslims after 911. In many other aspects Bush was playing to his party’s base but at least there was an appeal to expand the tent and try to frame conservatism in terms of compassion and empathy for others who had less or who weren’t already in the political choir.
No more: whether win or lose in November, tea party candidates have upset the Republican establishment.
In an important sense, the GOP has now fully made the jump into a political party with a soul anchored in talk radio: sharing many of the views and speaking in the tone and sound bites of a Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity. The political pros who juggled policies with ideololgy and formulas on how best to win by appealing to diverse groups are being edged out by true believers who believe that he or she who doesn’t embrace enough of the agenda needs to take a hike out of the party. It’s the next logical step on an ongoing exodus of moderates from the GOP, some intentionally and others being shoved to the door.
Will this work with voters in November? Disappointment — and disgust — with the Democratic party’s ability to deliver the goods, political horse-trading, ineffective explanation of its policies, coupled with the lack of jobs jobs jobs could mean the Tea Party Movement will be enmeshed in Congress and ultimately take over the party’s machinery — just as assuredly as Barry Goldwater’s and Ronald Reagan’s supporters transformed the Republican party in the 1960s and late 1970s.
Win or lose, compassionate conservatism is now effectively dead. The Tea Party is in ascension and Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity and those who emulate the tone of their on-the-air discussion of issues and share their idea of how big the GOP tent should be are more powerful and influential than ever.
Will America’s center agree? Is America’s center now further right than it was in past decades? Or is the GOP on the verge now of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory?
And if they are ready to grab defeat from the jaws of victory will the Democrats and Barack Obama grab defeat back from them and stuff it in their own mouths?
HERE’S A CROSS SECTION OF WEBLOG OPINION FROM A VARIETY OF VIEWPOINTS ON TONIGHT’S VOTE:
—The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:
The O’Donnell victory, which was considered a political impossibility as recently as a month ago, is a major boost for Democratic hopes of holding the seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons was unchallenged for the Democratic Senate nomination.
“I’m sad to say the Delaware primary results tonight are straight out of Harry Reid’s dream journal,” said prominent Republican strategist Mike Murphy of the O’Donnell win.
It’s yet another win for the Tea Party crowd over G.O.P. insiders. O’Donnell polls weaker than Castle against her Democratic opponent, but just by winning the nomination she’ll probably get a bump. As I mentioned before, the real question is whether people will pull together and strive for harmony now. Will they? That’ll be a major test for the opposition’s seriousness this election cycle.
So it’s been a great night, and DE-Sen told us all we need to know about the 2012 GOP presidential nomination — either bring the crazy, or get the hell out of the GOP.
In Delaware, the teabaggers delivered the Senate seat to the Democrats by nominating extremist teabagger Christine O’Donnell for the Senate race. In New Hampshire, they’re about to give Democratic chances for the Senate seat pickup a boost by nominating Ovide Lamontagne, who leads NH Attorney General and establishment favorite Kelly Ayotte 44.7 to 35.9, with 20 percent reporting. The margin has remained a stead 3,000 for a while.
The result represents a victory for the Tea Party Express and Sarah Palin. But I believe the big winner is Chris Coons, the Democrat, whom I expect to defeat O’Donnell handily in November, as Joe Biden defeated her last time.
Meanwhile, Beau Biden must be wishing he had run this year. It’s generally believed that Castle scared him off.
It’s disappointing to squander an opportunity to pick up a Senate seat. But it will not be tragic for Republicans (or a “nightmare,” to use Politico’s description) unless it costs Republicans control of the Senate, and that’s unlikely.
How unlikely? Nate Silver, who crunches numbers and has a good track record, estimates that O’Donnell’s nomination lowers Republican chances of gaining control of the Senate from 30 percent to 21 percent (if the Republicans nominate Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire) and from 23 percent to 16 percent (if the Republicans nominate Ovide Lamontagne instead of Ayotte).
Lamontagne leads Ayotte in New Hampshire in the early results. If that result holds, then according to Silver’s model, Republican chances of capturing control of the Senate will have dropped in one night from 30 percent, in an optimal scenario, to 16 percent.
However, in my view Silver’s model has too many moving parts to put much stock in. It is clear to me that O’Donnell’s victory lowers the odds of Republicans taking control of the Senate, but by how much I have no precise idea.
Ms. O’Donnell said in a Fox interview that “a lot of Hillary voters” were supporting her. That’s the only unbelievable part of the equation. But it does point to a factor at play this election, which is the conservative change exhibited by all the women on the Right. No one should think these women don’t feel a palpable chance to take control of politics in a way that’s never happened before in modern times.
The Hillary effect on the Right has rippled like a contagion from Sarah Palin, who has used her power well and fearlessly in this cycle as she’s helped stir the chaos against the Republican establishment, with Christine O’Donnell’s win the (second) most stunning of all the results in the midterms.
From here until November volatility is the rule.
Chaos politics making outcomes uncertain, no matter what’s been easily predicted in years before. Models don’t matter this year.
Unless Democrats harness a real issue, such as middle class taxes, and sell it like their political life depends on it things are going to get worse. Even if they do they still might.
We really need that Delaware Senate seat, and I think you just handed it to us.
It’s really nice to see Republicans feuding like … well, like Democrats.
In the meantime, betting against the former half-term governor to be the GOP nominee for 2012 now seems like a foolhardy move. Barack Obama has always lucked out in having opponents self-destruct. Whether that’s because he’s on a special mission from God or made a deal with Satan, it might turn out to be good for one more round.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong about her and that she pulls it off in November; election night will be great in any event, but it’d be fun to roll Humpbot out to celebrate victory in Delaware. For Castle fans/grudging supporters, the silver lining here is that GOP turnout in Delaware was way, way higher than Democratic turnout — which isn’t surprising given that Coons had no competition, but might spook the Dems at least into spending a bunch of money in the state. Every dollar burned there is a dollar denied to a Democrat elsewhere, so if she pulls a second upset, it’s a double win. If not, well, you were warned.
Important question now: Will Castle endorse O’Donnell in his concession?
9.40pm: Karl Rove – remember him? No, me neither – says of O’Donnell’s victory in Delaware: “All the rest of them are explainable … This is the inexplicable one.”
Interviewed on Fox, Rove the old fox says: “There’s just a lot of nutty things she’s been saying that just simply don’t add up … I’m for the Republican, but I’ve got to tell you we were looking at 8 to 9 seats in the Senate we’re now looking at 7 to 8. In my opinion, this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.”
[JG’s Prediction: Rove will eventually render this inoperative. In the end, the GOP will come together and push to win all the seats they can. Those who don’t like the Tea Party Movement will look the other way, endorse it or enable it but Rove won’t be bad mouthing O’Donnell for long..]
The path to a Republican Senate takeover narrowed to the point of vanishing Tuesday night, as marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell upset Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s Senate primary and likely dashed the GOP’s hopes of capturing the seat in the process.
Though six other states and the District of Columbia voted in primary elections Tuesday night, the outcome in Delaware had by far the most profound implications for the fall campaign. While Castle was comfortably on track to capture Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat, O’Donnell will enter the general election at a wide disadvantage to the presumptive Democratic nominee, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.
–In New York, Rick Lazio, who most famously went down in flames when he unsuccessfully ran against Hillary Clinton for the New York Senate seat, has now gone down in flames in the face of a Tea Party Movement member’s underestimated challenge:
Businessman Carl Paladino, helped by a “Tea Party” surge and disgust with Wall Street bailouts, has just scored an upset victory in the New York Republican governor’s primary.
Paladino defeated former congressman Rick Lazio, who had the backing of Republican party leaders. Lazio, who lost the 2000 Senate campaign to Hillary Rodham Clinton, went on to become a lobbyist for big Wall Street banks, and that became an issue in the campaign.
His come-from-behind win pits Paladino against Andrew Cuomo in the fall election. Cuomo is New York’s attorney general and the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.