First observation, on the Delaware senate race. Choosing Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle was perhaps the most self-destructive primary choice I have ever seen since I began watching politics, easily trouncing the previous record holder, John McCain’s presidential bid. The wildly popular Castle was thought to be a shoe-in for this seat, whereas O’Donnell never had a chance, and everyone knew she had no chance in the general well before the primary.
To support her regardless meant the concept of a moderately liberal Republican was so abhorrent to her supporters that they’d rather have an even more liberal Democrat – well, either that, or they all deluded themselves about her prospects. I could never buy this line of thinking, but perhaps that’s because I’m one of the myriad Libertarians who vote Republican for lack of a better party. I’ve found this to be a common theme among such Libertarians: since all of our votes end up being choices between the lesser of two authoritarians, we tend to roll our eyes when someone gets worked up because his would-be candidate doesn’t fill out all the correct bubbles on the political purity-test. Join the club, Delaware Republicans.
That said, this sends a powerful message to Republican moderates. You have exactly as much freedom to vote the way you want as Democratic moderates do: none. “Moderate” is an act you play to get re-elected; it isn’t actually allowed to influence your votes. Votes will be determined by the will of the party. One needs look no farther than Obamacare to prove that there isn’t a single Democratic senator willing to obey his constituents instead of the party. Now Republicans won’t be permitted to do so either. I can’t say I care much for this message. It seems to me that knocking off pseudo-centrist Democrats is a better way of getting conservative votes.
Second observation, also on the same race, criticizing the other side. The problem with Christine O’Donnell isn’t that she was too conservative, rather, she was just a bad candidate. The entire idea that statewide electability is determined by how close a politician is to that state’s mainstream is absurd. If Chris Christie, arch-fiscal conservative, can get elected Governor of New Jersey, clearly the problem isn’t that the Mid-Atlantic requires more centrism out of its candidates. Is there any senate seat in the country that Marco Rubio, Florida’s new senator elect and Tea Party favorite, couldn’t get within five points of winning? Most voters want a candidate who can demonstrate that he understands what he’s doing and can handle the reigns of power, i.e., a good communicator with solid credentials who inspires confidence in his audiences. Political positions matter, but are something of an afterthought as long as the candidate himself is sharp and inspiring.
Back to criticizing Tea Partiers: If the above is true, stop nominating conservative flakes merely because they’re conservative. If you don’t like moderates, find the conservatives that aren’t flakes and run them instead. If you promise to be real good on this one, Minnesota might lend you Chip Cravaak to give you some pointers on identifying them. Hint: They’ll look like Chip Cravaak.
Third Observation, on Connecticut. I know what you were thinking, Connecticut. “Let’s nominate McMahon for the senate seat! She has gobs of money, and money buys elections, right?” Turns out, Connecticut, that money can’t buy an election. A certain amount of money allows a candidate to get enough airtime to introduce himself to the people, butonce the candidate is a known entity, additional spending produces negligible results. For further reading, I refer you to Steven Levitt’s work on campaign spending influence, which concludes that spending has one tenth the effect that is commonly accepted. I bet you now wish you had nominated Rob Simmons for that seat instead, Connecticut. A retired Colonel who won a house seat in a Democratic stronghold… boy, he looks a lot like Chip Cravaak, doesn’t he?
And now, a personal note to some of the Minnesota house districts. To MN-7, you have no business being a Democratic stronghold. Why can’t you act more like your older brother, MN-8? To MN-3, please move east a few miles and get me out of Keith Ellison’s district. To MN-1, your representative has no business being a Democrat if he’s too afraid to include the word “Democrat” in any of his campaign ads. MN-2 and MN-6, keep up the good work.
Also, to our probable governor. Congratulations on doing what no Democrat has done in 20 years. I’m sure, barring a recount upset, that you’ll get straight to work on lots of important progressive goals like higher taxes, more spending, and trying to redistrict Michele Bachmann out of existence. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble doing that, what with your ironclad grip on the legislature – wait, what’s that? You’ve lost the house and senate? Well, you’d better go find them, since you can’t do anything without them. That was rather irresponsible of you. No one’s lost the senate since the 1970′s.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to add Cravaak to my spell checker.