This week's primary victories of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe DioGuardi in New York illustrate how the tea party is cleansing the Republican Party and installing true believers over professional politicians. It is a healthy trend that will continue to recreate the Party of Reagan.
But the conventional media, instead of hailing this trend, warns that conservatives cannot be elected and bemoans the victory of true believers saying that it is equivalent to handing seats to the Democrats and the liberals. This reasoning, which made sense in other times, is badly flawed in today's political climate.
When social issues like abortion, gays and guns dominate the political discourse, moderates have a big advantage. Voters in these times tend to measure themselves on a left to right spectrum and find those flanked sharply to their right to be extremist on these issues and reject their candidacies.
But these days, social issues are in remission and economic/fiscal problems have, understandably, taken center stage. In this environment, purists of the right have a big advantage because nobody doubts the sincerity with which they embrace the goals of limited government, low taxes and reduced spending. Politicians of all stripes -- including most Democrats -- vow allegiance to them, as does the overwhelming majority of the electorate.
In this environment, the distinctions of left and right give way to the difference between sincerity and insincerity, leaving the voters to judge. With candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada or O'Donnell in Delaware or DioGuardia in New York, voters don't have to guess. They know real conservatives when they see them.
Of course, Rep. Mike Castle had a big advantage in the Delaware Senate contest because of his name recognition and voter support after having run successfully statewide more than a dozen times (congressmen in Delaware serve at large). But don't count O'Donnell out. She is the real thing -- a conservative small-government devotee whose advocacy of low taxes is sincere and heartfelt. The national Republican establishment was stupid and short-sighted in the negatives they threw at her during the primary. Now they will have to eat their words at great financial and political cost.
But, in a way, their obduracy gives O'Donnell a great opportunity to run as the anti-establishment candidate, putting a plague on the houses of both parties and calling attention to the corruption of each. By separating herself from the Washington Republicans, she is able to embrace the values of small government and low taxes without doubt about the depth of her commitment. She is free of party labels and can luxuriate in that liberty.
For his part, DioGuardi has a very good chance to defeat Kristin Gillibrand. The appointed Democratic senator has not used the primary period, when she had a monopoly of the airwaves, to solidify her incumbency and generate familiarity among voters. Now she opens the general election likely at or even below 50 percent of the vote.
DioGuardi has a great chance to close the gap between them if he can get enough funding. Republicans looking for a lock on the Senate should send him plenty of funding. The Republicans running in Wisconsin, California, Illinois and West Virginia are largely self-funded. It should be possible to concentrate resources on those states where the need is the greatest, and if the GOP is smart, Delaware and New York will be high on the list.
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