The GOP's primary-night putsch
If the United States had a slightly different political tradition -- and possibly some more palm trees -- what happened Tuesday night would have been called a putsch. With something like 350 million people in the country, only a handful of them went to the polls and in only two states took over the Republican Party. In both Delaware and New York, where the Tea Party won big, the scene was set for a GOP debacle in November. With a little more Sarah Palin, the Democrats could rule forever.
In New York State, the GOP's establishment candidate, the oozy Rick Lazio, was whipped by an upstate real estate tycoon named Carl Paladino. Lazio is a former congressman who lost a senate race to Hillary Clinton, and although he is not much of a politician, he tried his demagogic best to win this race. He mounted commercial opposing the Islamic center proposed for near Ground Zero and came as close as possible to drawing his sword and marching to slay the wicked Saracen. It was all -- goody, goody -- for naught. Of the 19 or so million people in New York State, Lazio got the votes of about 167,000 of them.
As for Paladino, he is, of course, angry as hell, not going to take it anymore and out to destroy the establishment -- as long as his real estate business does not lose any government contracts. He got about 273,000 votes, which is somewhat short of impressive. It is sufficient, however, to put the party of Theodore Roosevelt, Tom Dewey, Jake Javits and, pardon the sacrilege, Al D’Amato into the hands of a man who is probably best known for sending pornographic/racist jokes to some lucky people on the Internet. In November, he will face Andrew Cuomo, the son of the former governor. If Cuomo loses this race, pigs really will fly.
The same thing happened -- and will happen -- in Delaware.
There, the Tea Party mounted another coup with the victory of Christine O'Donnell over Michael Castle. O'Donnell is yet another fringe figure who has the distinct honor of being denounced by her former campaign manager for being a faux conservative and for using funds from a previous campaign for personal expenses. This was denied, but no matter what the truth, O'Donnell seems a bit too reactionary for Delaware, which few people noticed was even a state until the recent prominence of Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator. O'Donnell's victory is almost sure to give the senate seat to the Democrats, thus helping to ensure continued Democratic control of the Senate.
The Republican Party is in pretty much the same position that the Democrats were in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Democrats had a zealous leftist minority -- even some communists -- who were unacceptable to the electorate but had achieved a certain prominence. Mainstream Democrats mounted a purge, and the leftists split off into the Progressive Party. (Racists and others formed yet another party and chose Strom Thurmond as their standard bearer. Harry S. Truman threaded this needle and won.)
The GOP needs to do what the Democrats did. Their Tea Party candidates are unacceptable to the American electorate. They have put forward a procession of candidates whose only qualification is anger. They are against almost anything you can name, including the 21st century. They proudly sport the endorsement of Sarah Palin, who cares not one whit about her party and the electability of its candidates. Despite the apparent unpopularity of Barack Obama and hostility to Washington, she will ensure the viability of exactly the system she professes to abhor. Watch those Mamma Grizzlies. They’re gonna eat the GOP.
| September 15, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories: Cohen | Tags: Richard Cohen
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