The Republicans look set to score big in the fall midterms, but there’s still a fear factor associated with the coming rout: the freshmen may not be the Republicans which the Republicans wanted.
Starting with Sue Lowden in Nevada, party-endorsed candidates are losing primaries to Tea-Partyish newcomers who may be too weird even for the Pubs (and remember, this is the party where the loony Michele Bachmann is a big shot!). Sharron Angle will ride the elephant against the conservatives’ pariah, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Pubs were licking their lips and counting on dethroning the senator for a symbolic as well as mathematical victory, but now the race is a dead heat, in fact leaning toward Reid. This is because the challenger has said she wants to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, EPA, the IRS, and the Department of Energy, for starters, and make Nevada the “capital of reprocessing spent nuclear fuels,” perhaps angering Nevadans who have gone apoplectic over the proposed Yucca Mountain disposal site. She “grudgingly tolerates” legal alcohol, and we haven’t even gotten to her drug treatment program, the one that seems connected to Scientology. Angle was so unreliable in the 42-member Nevada Assembly that she was on the short-stick end of numerous 41-1 votes, including one to put a cap on property taxes. A principled solon, or a loose cannon? You make the call, but you know what? She could still win.
Putting a Senate seat in play which should have been in your pocket (considering the national mood) has not gone unnoticed, and Pubs are frantically throwing money against ultra-right-wing primary challengers in other states, fearful that they won’t win over moderates in a general election. There are some colorful races piling up. In Delaware, the “Tea Party Express” candidate, Christine O’Donnell, is ruining things for Congressman Mike Castle in his bid for Joe Biden’s old seat. In Alaska, Joe Miller (with Sarah Palin’s help) edged out Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Marco Rubio in Florida forced the fairly reality-based Gov. Charlie Crist to go independent and dig into the base. One Republican patriot out in Arizona is even recruiting “street people” to run for state office – not for the GOP but for the Green Party, in the hope that they’ll siphon votes from Democrats just like the Tea Party has done to them. Hey, it’s their Constitutional right, you mosque-loving Commies!
Few candidacies are as comical as that of the woman who called health care reform a “Nazi policy” in one of those “town hall” meetings presided over by the briefly-straight-faced-but-ever-Jewish Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a man whom ultra-wingnuts, and most big bankers, wish would take his homosexual agenda back to private life. The Congressman famously said, to her face, that talking to Rachel Brown was “like arguing with a dining room table.” Now they will face off in the primary next Tuesday. “I regard her as an example of the price you pay for free speech,” Rep. Frank said.
Pubs have a right to be nervous, and not just because their kingmaking power is tarnished every time a Tea Partyer knocks off a VIP. It’s not that they might lose the general, it’s that they might win, and wind up with the most uncooperative freshman class in history. John Boehner wants to get all Fred Flintstone with the Speaker’s gavel; he can smell it. But here in 2010, that’s easy: just oppose anything President Obama can even think of. As Paul Krugman wrote last week, “if he came out for motherhood, the GOP would declare motherhood un-American.” In 2011, when you actually have to do something (Pubs are great at winning elections, lousy at governance), these cats could be a little harder to herd than flaccid backbenchers like Joe (“You lie!”) Wilson. So far, I haven’t heard one serious constructive idea from the Tea Party. Not one solution to unemployment, fiscal imbalance, the trade deficit, the profligacy of the military budget, the healthcare crisis, greedy pigs in finance and insurance, and the return of violent, irrational nativism (normally laughable when you consider our country’s history, but it’s not funny any more) that shames us and hands propaganda tools to our real enemies. It’s easy to say no. But, Pubs and baggers alike, if you don’t come up with anything more than lowering taxes on obscene wealth and buying more bombers on credit, then good luck just holding your seats, let alone defeating the President when he runs for re-election.