Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 3, 2009

TAKING THE MODEL ON THE ROAD.... In New York's 23rd, it was the Republican Party vs. the Republican Party's base. The party wanted a moderate candidate with a history of serving the community; the base wanted a right-wing newbie who didn't actually live in the district. The base won; the GOP candidate was forced out of the race; and the far-right Beck acolyte is poised to do very well today.

So, any chance the Tea Party crowd will feel satiated, content in knowing they proved their point? Fat chance.

In what could be a nightmare scenario for Republican Party officials, conservative activists are gearing up to challenge leading GOP candidates in more than a dozen key House and Senate races in 2010.

Conservatives and tea party activists had already set their sights on some of the GOP's top Senate recruits -- a list that includes Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida, former Rep. Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, among others.

But their success in Tuesday's upstate New York special election, where grass-roots efforts pushed GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava to drop out of the race and helped Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman surge into the lead on the eve of Election Day, has generated more money and enthusiasm than organizers ever imagined.

Activists predict a wave that could roll from California to Kentucky to New Hampshire and that could leave even some GOP incumbents -- Utah Sen. Bob Bennett is one -- facing unexpectedly fierce challenges from their right flank.

"I would say it's the tip of the spear," said Dick Armey, the former GOP House majority leader who now serves as chairman of FreedomWorks, an organization that has been closely aligned with the tea party movement. "We are the biggest source of energy in American politics today."

"What you're going to see," said Armey, "is moderates and conservatives across the country in primaries."

And there's not much party leaders can do about it.

After spectacular failures in 2006 and 2008, Republican officials resisted calls to move the party towards the middle, but they nevertheless recruited candidates intended to have fairly broad appeal. Now they're finding an enraged, uncompromising, right-wing base that will settle for nothing short of everything. If that means losing elections and driving moderates from the ranks, so be it.

For more moderate candidates, that means moving sharply to the right. For targeted GOP incumbents, it means less compromising, less constructive lawmaking, and more fealty to right-wing demands.

It's not enough to run a scorched-earth campaign against the governing majority -- Republican officials are now expected to salt the earth, too.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

Want to dismantle government, rescind civil rights, destroy social security, medicare and all forms of taxation? You're a "conservative activist."

Want to pull out of Afghanistan and have health coverage on par with Taiwain? You're the "extreme left wing of the Democratric party."

Posted by: inkadu on November 3, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

This tea bag thing doesnt get sated...it is a right wing mob. This is the bunch that is goinna push this big boy adolescent country to finally grow up and face its own fascist shadow and either give in to it or overcome it.

We fought european fascism 60 years ago, militarily. We've not addressed the seed in our own country's heart, in any way shape or form. But there are a growing buncha extrmists busy growing a big mob that may someday soon bring that horror to power.

Good luck with making fun of these monsters with the hope they'll get all embarrassed and go away...

Posted by: neill on November 3, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

The media will go fucking apeshit with the "Obama has been rejected" storyline for the next weeks.

Posted by: Blame the mindless on November 3, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

A complacent media, propaganda networks, purging in a major political party.... ahhh, to be alive in Germany during the '30's...... oh wait.

Posted by: Little Miss Attila on November 3, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Armey - spawn of Satan, or actually the Dark Lord himself? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: biggerbox on November 3, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK


Well, if they're successful in NY-23, that will just encourage them. In mid-term elections next year, they may well have a lot of success -- turnout's traditionally low, and the voters tend to be the ones who are most fired up. I"d say that's the teabaggers right now -- who knows what it'll be like a year from now, but I can see a lot of change ahead for Congress, and it's not change that progressives can believe in.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on November 3, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

You know, I really think a Conservative Party win in NY's 23rd will be good for the Democrats in 2010 and 2012.

It will be just enough to convince the nutjobs to push harder to the right, and the shrinkage will continue.

Posted by: doubtful on November 3, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to watch all this unfold. The more the GOP's leadership caves to the tea-party extremists, the more elections it will lose. If history is any guide, the tea-party wing will consider these losses as evidence that their candidates were not conservative enough and thus left voters no choice but to cast their ballots for the extreme far-left fringe radical communist Democrat.

Within 10 years, the GOP will have shrunk to a tiny rump made up of extremely disaffected far-right partisans. Unfortunately for the rest of us, these nit-wits tend to favor violence, are heavily armed, and have deep tentacles in the military. When their electoral fortunates fall to about 15% of the popular vote, they will no doubt conclude that the only possible way to preserve "freedom" is by violent insurrection and the imposition of a military dictatorship.

Posted by: Domage on November 3, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

This shows the diabolical power of right wing talk radio and Fox Opinionated non-News. For the sake of America, pull the plug.

The airwaves belong to the American People. We OWN the printing press. That bastard Rupert Murdock doesn't own the airwaves. He only controls minds while his fast talkers are on the people's airwaves.

Posted by: anomaly on November 3, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

This scenario already played out in Oregon over the last few years. The state had a tradition of really good, intelligent Republicans but the Right Wing shoved them all out and did their best to purge "moderates" completely.

The result? No statewide elected Republicans in office, the legislature solidly in Democratic hands, and the state GOP broke and completely ineffectual. The moderate Republican voters haven't become Democrats and are instead "unaffiliated" but they vote for the Democrats and the GOP is locked in a death spiral.

Posted by: gummitch on November 3, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

"far-right Beck acolyte is poised to do very well today"

Where is the evidence of that? One poll? Let's wait until the votes are in.

Posted by: DR on November 3, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

You know, I really think a Conservative Party win in NY's 23rd will be good for the Democrats in 2010 and 2012.

Yeah, my fellow progressives keep saying this, but I'm not convinced. We're trying to fucking govern here. Republican obstructionism from even the comparatively uninsane members of the GOP caucus is already strangling legislation. Except for the mild bleatings of GOP has-beens who aren't running for anything except another box of Depends, I see no signs that the "mainstream" portion of the GOP is trying to put the brakes on the craziest fringe element. On the contrary, the whole party is in thrall to Beck and Limbaugh, the GOP leadership is encouraging Bachmann to parade teabaggers through the halls of Congress and formerly moderate goopers are getting behind Hoffman with enthusiasm.

It may well be true that in the long run, the crazies running the asylum will have benefits for our side. In the meantime, this country is in for a world of hurt. You think they're hateful assholes now? Wait until you see them when they're drunk with a sense of power.

Posted by: shortstop on November 3, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

It also should always be remembered that the bulk of this candidates are not moderate in any meaningful sense of the word (or at most on one or two issues). In the fever swamp of the teabaggers (and, unfortunately, in most of the Village) "moderate" means their rhetoric is not quite as crazy as Michelle Bachman, although in practice their substantive views and their votes are not particularly different.

Posted by: Marlowe on November 3, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

i wish i could get more excited about this wingnut undermining of their own party. but i'm too busy looking ahead to two related issues that are more problematic.

first, as the post right below this one shows, the more conservative wing of the Democratic party shows the same authoritarian impulses to blow up what it can't control.

second - and particularly troubling when linked with the preexisting Blue Dog problem - is that these "moderate" Republicans will likely seek refuge in the Democratic party. Those too liberal for the modern wingnut party like Scozzafava would still be on the right-edge of the Democratic party; if they join in numbers they move the center of gravity of the Dems even farther to the right.

the result may be that intentionally or not the wingnuts have a great strategy: we end up with a new Republican party that is the party of Glenn Beck, small but loud and forceful, backed by money; a new Democratic party that is really a bi-partisan center-right coalition; and the progressives, with smaller numbers, less money, and less media love on the outside looking in.

the left needs to be vigilant and start early to head off this potential disaster.

Posted by: zeitgeist on November 3, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

"(Conservatives and tea party activists) are the biggest source of energy in American politics today."

Yeah, and this group even has a name.

The Dick Army.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on November 3, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

It has played out in NY and I guess Ca. as well. Ineffectual state parties that lose election after election...(Arnold excepted).

Posted by: JM on November 3, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

in re the 'teabaggers': When in doubt, turn to The Bard.

"It is a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. . ."

Posted by: DAY on November 3, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

This surge of of the ultra-sonservatives is quite interesting. President Obama and leading Democrats are responding by sounding moderate and compromising. The problem is that political energy never comes from the middle; in fact, standing in the middle saps energy. The left needs to be more out-spoken, more energized, not less. I think the best way to win the middle is to have a compelling message with a commitment to the cause. You give up the middle when you play Mr. Milktoast and fail to confront the other side. It communicates a lack of confidence. And I have to say that too many Democrats lack confidence despite their majority and it's very sad.

Posted by: tomb on November 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Zeitgeist at 10:36 nails it. We don't need the Democrats moving farther toward the stinkin' right.

Posted by: anomaly on November 3, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"You know, I really think a Conservative Party win in NY's 23rd will be good for the Democrats in 2010 and 2012."

Whistling past the graveyard.

It all comes down to turnout. MY fear is that democrats and independants won't turn out. If the lunatic right fringe gets out the vote they could do very well. Alot of people are smirking at this election in NY. It's one more Michelle Bachmann shitting in Congress. Years ago ppeople passed off the christian right as just kooks. They managed to get themselves elected to school boards and county boards and seeped their way up. They all but took over the Republican Party and have spawned the tea baggers.

Even one of thses people elected to Congress isn't good for the Democrats...or the country.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 3, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

As a follow up to my previous post, ask yourself this question: Why do Democrats tolerate Joe Lieberman? Would conserevatives tolerate a member who is equally disloyal politically and ideologically? NO!! And good for them! Joe's presence poisons their message and they have to be honest about that and have the guts to stand for their beliefs instead of tolerating Joe for some perceived political conveinance. If the Democrats don't have the courage to kick out Traitor Joe, then they can't lead regardless of their majority status.

Posted by: tomb on November 3, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Republican Party officials have been insisting for the past 4 years that the problem was that they weren't being conservative enough and now they have created a base that believes that to be the gospel. And the party will have to live with that.

Good luck to them in 2010 and 2012.

(I only wish my opponents well when I am certain they are on the losing end)

Posted by: majun on November 3, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

I wish that voters at election time would refresh their memory of what the party of no, the party of obstructionism, and the so called christian party really is. This party promotes "family values" as they get caught repeatedly with their pants down in rest rooms, the halls of congress and with prostitutes. AND no one cares unless it's a democrat.
With that in mind, I'm leaving now to vote for Owens.

Posted by: Schtick on November 3, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

When we first moved to Colorado in 1995, the GOP was riding high. We are afflicted with Colorado Springs (the "Evangelical Vatican") which is home to Focus on the Family, New Life Church, The Air Force Academy of our Lord Jesus Christ and assorted other pests. With God as a Republican strategist and Jesus as a poll watcher, we were assured that the Colorado GOP was invincible.

Fourteen years later the Governor, both U.S. Senators and the State Senate majority are all Democrats. With GOP nutjobs like the State Representative from Colorado Springs who voted against funding HIV testing for indigent pregnant women because it would promote promiscuity (better dead babies than live hussies) what else could they possibly have expected?

They've toned down the God and Family Values talk a lot in the past year but it's going to take a good long while before we forget. If nothing else the GOP's legacy of crumbling roads and falling down bridges will be a good reminder.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on November 3, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

These ARE the new Nazis. They should be treated as such. Take off the gloves, Democrats and stop trying to find compromises. Everyone else, get out on the streets whenever possible and confront these people - with whatever it takes. And that includes Bachmann, Hannity, Beck and the others.

Lieberman must be immediately stripped of his chair if he joins the Republican strategy of opposing the Democrats at every turn.

Enough.

Posted by: Richard on November 3, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I think the way to frame the coming wave of Teabaggers is to call them "Dick Cheney Conservatives" in TV ads. That should end the movement quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Posted by: Stephen on November 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

A right wing vendetta against Republicans it considers heretics to the cause was entirely predictable the moment we began hearing strong voices from within the GOP blaming John McCain's "moderation" for the GOP's loss last November. Once that became the conventional wisdom on the right -- with all thought of rethinking its policies or positions going right out the window -- it was just a matter of time before right wing vigilantes assembled to enforce orthodoxy in the vain hope, typical among ideologues, that a purer and more complete "commitment to conservative principles" is all that is needed to fix whatever ails the GOP.

The danger for the larger nation is that a right wing movement like this is obviously interested in nothing other than power. It has no instinct or appetite for working productively with Democrats or the rest of the nation to solve problems. Therefore, it is quite likely that it will attempt to disrupt normal politics to the greatest extent possible -- to make the nation essentially ungovernable -- in the hope that it can capitalize politically from the chaos it is able to create.

That is the danger in a system of divided powers such as ours which gives an outcast minority like the conservative movement greater influence than it otherwise might have. And it can use its influence for negative and destructive purposes if it decides -- as the GOP has -- that it wants no part of a country that would elect a liberal black man as president.

Posted by: Ted Frier on November 3, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

As the looney-tune radical right purifies its ranks, much as the Nazis purified their ranks, and as the arch-conservative pope wishes to purify catholicism, progressives must not emulate this self-destructive behavior: they just need to get their act together.

The amorphous middle doesn't produce change. Only a push from the right or left makes the middle move. Unfortunately all the noise and poison on the right isn't counteracted by enough intelligent, principled, responses from the left. There effectively hasn't been a 'left' in this country for over thirty years. That has to change, or else the pressure from the right will be unstoppable.

If indeed we had a liberal media, which we most certainly don't, the job would be easier, but it too has been absorbed into the right-of-center corporate state, and the outcome in NY-23 today may be very telling about how susceptible the electorate is to the meaningless and relentless sensationalism of the noise machine.

A three party system including a rump radical right-wing, and a majority formed by a coalition of moderate left and independents, would create a much healthier political discourse in this very immature country. If the self-destructive behavior of the GOP base gives us that we should thank them and then tell the to return to their caves.

Posted by: rich on November 3, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

To quote the modern Oscar Wilde, one Nelson Muntz: Ha! Ha!

Posted by: buggy ding dong on November 3, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I think all of us are surprised by the size and virulence of the right wing movement that appeared almost immediately after Obama's election. Surveys tell us that we live in the most polarized political environment we've ever had since opinion polls have been in existance. But I don't think any of us were fully aware of how radicalized our political environment had become.

The reason we were caught unawares is that for most of the time that Fox News, and conservative talk radio and the rest of the powerful Right Wing communications apparatus has been in place, conservatives have also controlled our government. It is hard to appreciate, since Rush, Hannity, Beck and the rest of Spanky's gang seem to have been with us forever, but the Radical Right media establishment is only about 15 years old, dating from the Clinton Administration. What we are seeing today is the result of 15 years of saturation bombing by ideological media devoted to the single message that liberals are the enemies, cannot be trusted, and want nothing more than to destroy the country.

This media has also done a very good job insulating its audience and protecting itself against counter-messages with rhetorical formulations that you hear consistently from people who consume right wing media -- such as that any attack on Fox or Rush or the hate and division they traffic in is nothing more than liberals with double standards being hypocrits for not tolerating dissenting points of view.

Conservative media has successfully created a fully radicalized political faction that feels nothing but complete alienation from the rest of the country and wants no part of it. And since the regular Republican Party needs to appeal to non-conservatives to be successful, right wing conservatives want no part of the regular GOP either. Which is why the we see the right wing base endorsing non-Republicans and splintering away. This radicalized base still calls itself Republican and has not yet fully reformed itself as an independent Conservative Party. But that is next, and only a matter of time.

Posted by: Ted Frier on November 3, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

The irony is wonderful.

It is OK for Democrats to complain that some of their members are not liberal enough but it is bad for the Republicans to complain that some of their members are not conservative enough.

I always thought that the wingnuts thought that if they just ran as real conservatives that they would win elections.

I always thought that the Democrats were smart enough to know that they needed to be closer to the center in order to win elections.

But I guess anyone to the right of Howard Dean should be shot because they aren't liberal enough.

It will be interesting to watch all the liberals bitch about the 2008 election where we elected our conservative President and our conservative Congress

Posted by: neil wilson on November 3, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I should think third-party conservative candidates can only be good for the Democrats in 2010 and 2012. They'll split up the Republican votes. That dynamic has certainly worked against us often enough in the past, why shouldn't it work for us for a change?

Posted by: Freddie on November 3, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

If the Dems move from the right center to the far right, it'll be OK with the Money Party when the GOP self-destructs.

The Money Party is the party of status quo. No room for radical right wingers in the Money Party. They are allowed to exist, and support by MSM only because they keep liberals and progressives from taking over the Dems with the support of the majority of Americans. Liberals and Progressives are the natural enemy of the Party of Status Quo. So are the radical right fascists.

Posted by: anomaly on November 3, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Nice kerfluffle in a teapot, but the democrat has the donations to win:
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/11/local-vs-national-conservative.html

Posted by: Jimbo on November 3, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"It may well be true that in the long run, the crazies running the asylum will have benefits for our side. In the meantime, this country is in for a world of hurt. You think they're hateful assholes now? Wait until you see them when they're drunk with a sense of power."

You mean like between 2001-2006? Oh, wait! We've already seen that one!

They will have to wait until at least 2016 in all probability to seize the Presidency because Obama will likely win reelection. (Most incumbent Presidents do win, unless the electorate are convinced that he out of touch with what's going on with them -- like Carter and Bush I and Bush II after Katrina and the S.S. privatization fiasco).

But, god knows what "bi-partisan" crap Obama would enact if he had a Republican Congress to deal with! It would be a total nightmare that would cater to his worst instincts to "compromise."

We'd get another horrible dose of beating up the base for being "too liberal" and enacting "entitlement reform" (read cuts in social services) in order to "close the budget deficit" that nobody in America ever cares about as long as a Republican President is in power -- but instantly start screaming about as soon as a Democrat is elected and wants to actually DO anything!

Posted by: Cugel on November 3, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Liberals and Progressives are the natural enemy of the Party of Status Quo. So are the radical right fascists."

That's what the Socialists said in Germany in the 1930s. Didn't work out that way did it?

Actually the bankers will always side with fascists if that's what's needed -- and they'll take their chances on losing control like they did with Hitler.

LOTS of respectable business leaders in the U.S. in the 1930s thought that Hitler had the right idea how to deal with all those "free-thinking progressives."

Same thing in Britain too. When Hitler met the former King Edward VII after his abdication, he struck Hitler as a "man who had a sound understanding of the Fuhrer Prinzip and wished to apply it to his country." (I.e. Edward wanted to have a Fuhrer in Britain in Hitler's estimation).

There are ALWAYS elements of the banking class who think the workers are getting out of hand and need stronger discipline. A fascist party is always one way to go.

The only reason it hasn't happened yet in America is that Democracy works much better to control the people. It's much easier to control people who think they have a choice than those who know perfectly well they don't.

Posted by: Cugel on November 3, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

A direct consequence of electing a black President I didn't think of. I like it.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on November 3, 2009 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK
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