The background: H/T to Lisa Mossie for sharing a Ross Douthat NYT column in which he describes the inability of the populist/Tea Party faction(s) to produce an effective insurgent Presidential candidate.
I don’t want to sound like I’m co-signing Douthat’s piece here, but his point about the populists having legitimate gripes with the party ring true to me. And yet, as Douthat points out, the solutions and candidates offered by the populists are often found wanting. I find myself less distressed about the possibility of a Romney candidacy than I once was.
The 2012 US Senate race: Like the Presidential race, I think there are a few people who could potentially win, though none of them has really knocked it out of the park for me. Every candidate I’ve examined has notable flaws.
I wonder how much “the establishment” really thinks we could beat Casey. I think we have a good shot at it, provided that the political stars align. That’s to say, I think it matters who we choose, and it matters that we get behind that person, and with the right national environment it’s a do-able race. The idea that we might not take the 2012 Senate race seriously reminds me of the adage, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.
If you don’t think we can beat Casey, just roll over and die already. Please.
Tea Party at the RSC Fall Meeting: I’ve been more than apologetic for the Tea Party since its formation. I’ve argued that it doesn’t fall neatly into the right-left spectrum that many people imagine exists. I’ve argued that (high overall quality) candidates can win while espousing Tea Party values. And I still believe those things. But the Tea Party folks should be disappointed with the displays put on at the PAGOP fall meeting.
First off, if you are a committee member, it is generally bad form to wear t-shirts to official meetings proclaiming your wish to remove three incumbent “RINO” Congressmen. The RINOs in question? Gerlach, Dent, and Platts.
Don’t get me wrong, I think each of these three men has less than stellar conservative voting records. But understand that Gerlach and Dent represent D+4 and D+2 districts, respectively. I’m willing to cut those guys some slack and let the voters in their districts make that decision. Platts’ lifetime ACU score of 72.74 could and should be better considering that he represents an R+12 district, but that’s nowhere near “RINO” level. To hear some people talk, you’d think Platts was Arlen Specter crossed with Linc Chafee.
And I know that some of you folks think the people who spoke up at the meeting were heroic, but to most of the rest of us they just looked foolish. Please understand the difference between a fundraiser (that costs money to attend) and official meetings (which are free to attend, provided you can get yourself to the meeting). Understand that not following Robert’s Rules of Order actually forces the Chairman to shut you down.
The sorts of displays put on at the RSC meeting did not reflect well upon the Tea Party, and only served to distance the committee membership from their cause. And that’s a damned shame, because I truly believe the Tea Party has something to offer the Republican Party.
The Party: I know that the straw poll didn’t really count for anything, but I thought it was sort of silly that they pushed Rick Santorum. Given that the poll will only be taken seriously insofar as a serious candidate wins it, I thought it was a wasted opportunity to give an honest impression of how the committee members felt. Perhaps we might have had some infinitesimally small influence over the process had we chosen either Romney or Perry. Later that evening I asked a party official what the committee really accomplished by voting for Santorum. He answered that we raised a bunch of money, which I suppose is at least a legitimate answer, but I still feel it was a silly thing to do.
The party actually pushed through some fairly hard-core conservative resolutions. Had anybody in the “populist” backbenches actually bothered to read them they might have liked them.
But to come full circle back to Ross Douthat’s column, the populist critique of the GOP is probably more about the style and manner in which the party leaders conduct business than it is about purely ideological matters.