September 15, 2010

Dela-wow! Now what?

Christine O'Donnell, Tea Party supported candidate, endorsed by Palin and DeMint won the GOP Senate primary in Delaware. Wow! She defeated party-backed 'moderate' Mike Castle who was seen as a better bet to win in November. Now what?

The Delaware Senate race did just get harder for Republicans.  But in the big picture, this is a healthy win. The Hill this morning is saying that Castle is refusing to endorse O'Donnell, thereby reinforcing the fact that he's not a party-first guy, he's a me-first guy. That kinda proves the Tea Party point - he's in it not for principle but for himself. This vote wasn't about O'Donnell's credentials - it was about the RINO-ness of Castle. Originally I had been making the case to Tea Party supporters that if Castle won, conservatives should still rally around him (for now).  But the reverse is going to turn out to be even more necessary.  If Castle is too juvenile to accept defeat gracefully and support O'Donnell, it is even more incumbent on his supporters to do so.

Delawareans seemingly have picked the nobler candidate. But win or lose in November there is a bigger picture to consider.  The inside scoop on Delaware is that party insiders are truly inside - a blue blood clique that encompasses both Democrats and Republicans. No wonder group think 'centrism' is the status quo. Delaware, like many other states, needed to do some house cleaning. 

But there is a bigger picture still. Hearts and minds of voters are what the Tea Party is ultimately after. That is a longer term prospect. Winning an election cycle is a good thing but you'll need to fight that battle again in two years. If you can get the populace involved in understanding what the Constitution set out as the role and responsibilities of government, along with the limitations it set, and why, you will have a people who will want to ensure government is both limited and not wasteful. You will ensure that representatives are cognizant of that fact and act accordingly.  That's the vision. 

What's the biggest hurdle, besides winning seats? The movement is leaderless, or perhaps more accurately amorphous.  That presents challenges for which the solution creates a different set of challenges.  Without a leader, traditionally it has been tough to maintain momentum and tough to maintain unity on the direction of the movement.  There is the potential for the Tea Party to splinter and/or turn into just another lobby group.  It would lose it's importance and weight by doing so.  Alternatively, it could find a leader but then does it remain a bottom-up, common sense revolution?  Maybe, if the leader remains responsive to their constituency.  But it's hard.  There is no easy path to the future for the Tea Party, and as a result, many traditional media and punditry see now as the possible zenith for the Tea Party impact.

Whether that is born of liberal wishful thinking doesn't matter.  Keeping a movement alive beyond the immediate sense of urgency can be difficult.  Just ask President Obama and his tanking public approval.  But in this case there is a more foreboding reason that the movement might just keep its legs and maintain it's momentum.  That is the fact that, pre-dating President Obama, indeed going back to the changes under FDR, the country set itself on a course of eventual self-destruction.  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Keynesian deficit spending as the norm, and now nationalized health care all are unsustainable.  The continued shrinkage of the industrial base into a true rust belt is also a major contributor to the decline of American economic might.  These concerns have to be addressed if the country is to be saved from financial ruin and the decay in stature that will accompany it.  There is a need to change what goes on in Washington if these trends are to be reversed.  REAL CHANGE is necessary in Washington if the country is to be salvaged restored to greatness.  I'm not talking about the kind of change that Obama promised - more of the same spending and redistribution of wealth but even faster than before.

It would seem that the general feeling in the country is an understanding of these facts.  But I don't want to misread a trend of anger into a movement of principles.  I could be wrong.  But regardless of whether that momentum and understanding is there, it needs to be nourished and grown because the country needs it.  What happened in Delaware hopefully, is another harbinger of that future.

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