Wasting no moment after seeing the list of those eight wretched souls who betrayed us Friday on what could be the most important vote of their careers, I immediately started my search for primary challengers. Like many Republicans, I watched the vote with bated breath, wondering if Eric Cantor's whip team could deliver the final blow after John Boehner's triumphant parliamentary smackdown earlier in the day. Thus, when the final result came in, there was only one thing on my mind: vengeance.
I searched the internet until I found my prize: a self proclaimed political consultant and budding perrenial candidate in Delaware by the name of Christine O'Donnell. The uncontested Republican nominee was destroyed by Joe Biden in the 2008 race for Senate, even as Biden ran for Vice-President. However, I thought: Mike Castle, one of those wretched souls, is considering running in the upcoming special election to replace Ted Kaufman. Maybe we could support her... Maybe O'Donnell was underfunded... Maybe, with the right campaign, with the right support, she could be our weapon to give Mike Castle the electoral punishment he deserved--and show him that we hold people accountable...
The desire to find someone to run against Castle was immense. But then, reality set in: O'Donnell could never win, the GOP bench in the NE is virtually nonexistent, Beau Biden will soon return to attempt to claim his father's seat, and Mike Castle could be our only chance to stop him. This sniveling, traitorous bastard who just voted for, among other things, the largest tax in history, could be our only chance.
And, it was at that moment that my thought was completed: our only chance to defeat Cap and Trade will come in the early fall at the hands of the U.S. Senate. Post 2010, as we prepare to deal with the second half consequences of the President's term, can we afford to count on people like Mike Castle and Charlie Crist in the Senate to deliver for our principles when it really counts?
John Cornyn says that his justification for supporting Governor Crist was purely political: a crunch of name ID and popularity. Concurrently, with the notable and honorable exception of Senator Jim DeMint, the party establishment has rejected Marco Rubio as a hopeless candidate and a political liability. Through it all, our party leadership has clearly revealed itself as obsessed with the concept of electoral success and increasingly unconcerned with what this win-at-all-costs mentality means to not only our principles, but our chances of actually ever becoming a majority again.
It is clear that, should Charlie Crist be elected to the U.S. Senate, he will immediately cast himself in the mold of Mike Castle, and the Democrats will have one more ally on the other side of the aisle to betray his party's principles when they need him most. And, unless we can change, we will continue to support and (sometimes) elect candidates that will leave us at the altar. Instead of adhering to the true "big tent" values of the Republican party, we're whoring out the label of (R) to anyone who wants it, and paying big for the consequences. We've backed ourselves into a corner, and we have to find a way to get out.
What Marco Rubio represents is not just a return to conservativism, nor is it just a younger generation picking up the torch-- it's a collective realization that recruiting folks that are unwaveringly committed to a core set of values is the only way that we can both elect new Republicans and count on them once they're on the floor. If we can rebuild our backbench, nationwide, with people like him (they exist everywhere, we just have to find them), we can start the process of healing.
Ronald Reagan's famous 80/20 quip is a great justification for the big tent philosophy we should have as a party. Sure, many of us disagree on social issues, even a little on fiscal policy. But, as Republicans, we need to know where to draw the line, and we need to see the consequences that are playing out in front of us for failing to see where it is.
And, thus, the Republicans who voted for Friday's bill, including Rep. Castle, have shown us these consequences-- that, when you support lame candidates, you pay dearly. Who knows how Governor Crist will betray us if he's elected to the Senate-- the more important question: is there anyone who thinks he won't?
To me, one of the most depressing things about Friday's vote is that we're already locked into the consequences of this failure in Delaware in having to support Mike Castle. In 2010, I'm not stepping a foot inside the state of Delaware for any candidate. In public, I'll support Mike Castle. But, if Beau Biden wins, at least we're not fooling ourselves.
- The author, James Barnes, is the Chairman of the College Republicans of the District of Columbia and can be reached at email@example.com