Republican primary voters in Delaware yesterday nominated conservative Christine O’Donnell to be the party’s candidate for the Senate this fall.
Anyone who took a cursory glance at Delaware (including myself, of course) just accepted the going report: Mike Castle, the popular moderate Republican Representative running for the seat recently vacated by Vice President Biden, was the clear favorite both to win the Republican primary and the general election in November. His was supposed to be as easy of a transition from the House to the Senate as they come in our post-smoke-filled room age.
Some prognosticators prognosticate that Delaware has gone from a likely Republican pickup to a likely Democratic holdover as a result of a primary that tossed out a popular moderate Republican incumbent and nominated a little-known former abstinence counselor in a Blue State. Another way of looking at this is as part of a succession of impressive primary wins by insurgent Tea Party candidates, notably Rand Paul in Kentucky, incumbent Robert Bennett’s loss in Utah (ultimately to Mike Lee, once a law clerk for Samuel Alito), Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller’s defeat of incumbent Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Paul, Lee and Miller are currently polling well-ahead; the insertion of several ideological candidates into the longer-tenured Senate by a movement that repeatedly rejected candidates preferred by the Republican Senate leadership is significant, whatever anyone might say.
The politically-dynamic force is the one that can mobilize under cover of night. What is essentially an effort by conservatives at ideological purification of the Republican Party should seek to mobilize Republicans and intrigue the undecideds–while prompting only dismissal from Democrats. That’s not easy to do. Some have already argued that two-party government would be a good thing, while a shrinking number of handicappers still express skepticism about House calls that rely on vague generic ballot tests. The author, long-given to election handicapping, doesn’t want to make a call; there are too many parties fighting just to define what they’re fighting over. Little is really known about the relationship between depth and breadth of support for Republican candidates, or whether millions on the left really believe, as they did back when Gore ran against Bush in 2000, that they should sit the election out in protest because the President struck compromises.
This time the author is only sure that he doesn’t want to assume that a widespread political operation won’t make a difference merely because it doesn’t quite fit into his understanding of the political system. Put differently, he doesn’t know that a revolution is coming, but as a good ironist he doesn’t want to get caught with his historical pants down.
We close with Michel Foucault’s words about the Iranian Revolution, out-of-context but still containing a prescient warning against arrogance:
“Is a long-foreseen split taking place within the opposition to the shah? The ‘politicians’ of the opposition try to be reassuring: ‘It is good,’ they say. ‘Khomeini, by raising the stakes, reinforces us in the face of the shah and the Americans. Anyway, his name is only a rallying cry, for he has no program. Do not forget that, since 1963, political parties have been muzzled. At the moment, we are rallying to Khomeini, but once the dictatorship is abolished, all this mist will dissipate. Authentic politics will take command, and we will soon forget the old preacher.’ But all the agitation this weekend around the hardly clandestine residence of the ayatollah in the suburbs of Paris, as well as the coming and going of ‘important’ Iranians, all of this contradicted this somewhat hasty optimism. It all proved that people believed in the power of the mysterious current that flowed between an old man who had been exiled for fifteen years and his people, who invoke his name.
“The nature of this current has intrigued me since I learned about it a few months ago, and I was a little weary, I must confess, of hearing so many clever experts repeating: ‘We know what they don’t want, but they still do not know what they want.'”
UPDATE: Count Clive Crook among the columnists arguing that their nomination of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware was a bad move for the Republicans. He predicts doom for O’Donnell in much stronger terms than Robinson. I’m linking to his reaction to the Delaware primary because of how adamantly he rejects the premise that the Tea Party candidates can ride the wave of another “Republican Revolution.”