Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 12, 2010

EUPHEMISM OF THE DAY.... A variety of adjectives comes to mind to describe some of the bizarre Republican candidates winning statewide primaries this year, but Politico goes with a rather polite one: "offbeat."

A former professional wrestling executive, a libertarian ophthalmologist and a man who thinks bicycle use could empower the United Nations filed to run in elections. That's not the start of a joke: that's a sampling of the deeply unusual pool of candidates running -- and actually being nominated -- for high office this year.

A phenomenon that began with physician Rand Paul's victory in the Kentucky Senate primary has effectively gone national: Primary voters are again and again choosing offbeat candidates shunned by national party strategists, and imperiling potential Republican gains this November in the process.

Elections this week in Colorado and Connecticut yielded a new crop of oddball nominees. Ken Buck, a gaffe-prone prosecutor once ordered to take ethics classes for his handling of an illegal guns case, defeated former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in a Republican Senate primary. In Connecticut, Linda McMahon, who founded World Wrestling Entertainment with her husband Vince, was linked to steroid investigations and appeared in numerous violent and sexually suggestive sketches, bested Rob Simmons, a former congressman and decorated veteran, for the GOP's Senate nomination.

Perhaps the week's most out-of-right-field nominee was Colorado Republican Dan Maes, a conservative activist and first-time candidate who capitalized on a plagiarism scandal involving primary opponent Scott McInnis to capture the Republican nomination for governor.

To its credit, Politico added that some of these primary-winning candidates are "downright strange," which seems more than fair.

But there's one point I'd disagree with here. The crux of the piece is that the "offbeat" candidates are winning because they bring a non-traditional background to the table. This year, the argument goes, credible, relevant experience in public policy and/or government is a turnoff to voters seeking a wholesale break with the status quo.

That's not a bad argument, but I don't see the landscape this way. These bizarre candidates won major primary campaigns because of their far-right, often radical, ideologies. That they're coming from outside the world of government and politics is just gravy.

Did Linda McMahon win in Connecticut because she ran a wrestling company? No, she won because she spent a lot of money, and convinced Republicans her primary opponent was too moderate. Ken Buck won in Colorado for the same reason -- his party-preferred rival was deemed insufficiently right-wing. Dan Maes got a boost from McInnis' plagiarism scandal, but he capitalized because the party's base appreciated his extreme ideology.

And in Kentucky, Rand Paul didn't thrive because primary voters were impressed with his "outsider" ophthalmological background; they liked his radical worldview.

This isn't, in other words, a year for "offbeat" candidates to thrive; it's a year for right-wing candidates to win GOP primaries, without much regard for electability.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Boy, that Politico sure knows how to put the Romantic lens on the brutal poetry of realpolitik! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 12, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Quote: 'These bizarre candidates won major primary campaigns because of their far-right, often radical, ideologies. That they're coming from outside the world of government and politics is just gravy.'

Exactly. The GOP has been taken over by the crazies, the crazies are nominating their own, and these loons will go down in the General. We're not going to to suffer nearly as much as the Villagers would have us believe and we can have a surprising Nov. if true progressives campaign agressively against the stated positions of the 'baggers.

Posted by: BillFromPA on August 12, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

It would appear that the way to win on American Idol and in Republican primaries is not too dissimilar. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Offbeat," is it? I'd have probably gone straight to "batshit insane."

Posted by: azportsider on August 12, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

If elected, can and will they govern??
The GOP mantra has been that the government cannot (and should not) do anything other than defense (and hand out pork to patrons). A number of people are convinced that government is not necessary. Will we get kleptocracy in place of good government?

Posted by: bakho on August 12, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

While I desperately hope that 'the crazies' will, indeed, go down in flames in November, I fear that many of them will win, and perhaps win convincingly, due to expected higher Republican than Democratic voter turnout. Nobody in the Democratic Party should slack even a nanosecond just because they perceive the GOP nominees to be 'too radical to win.'

Remember: the average voter is very easy to manipulate, and the GOP has proven expert in such manipulation over the past 40 years. Heck, even in 1968 the GOP managed to make Trick Dick look vaguely fuzzy + acceptable. Later, it painted George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative,' and a 'reformer with results.' The same GOP establishment which 'the crazies' defeated can be counted on to go all out to get them elected.


Posted by: Zorro on August 12, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Your analysis is perfect, as far as it goes. The rest of the story is that the mad cap dash to the right is not a strategy, it is a sociological phenomenon, and it is one that is technologically driven. The larger story is this: the GOP will win huge in November 2010, and will be gone forever by November 2020.

Posted by: Burr Deming on August 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

The point, I suppose, is that people are rarely crazy in just one specific way-- a right-wing radical (or, for that matter, a left-wing radical) is likely to have various, um, unusual habits and beliefs.

However, eccentricity doesn't excuse or mollify bad behavior. E.g., bigotry is still bigotry, ignoring reality and lying are still bad things.

Posted by: MattF on August 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Politico provides political cover for Republicans. [strike]Film at 11.[/strike] Drudge link in 5...4...3..

Posted by: Gregory on August 12, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

It is the mindless promotion of dems and obama that has has cleared the way for a GOP landslide in November followed by 8-years of President Sarah Palin.

Anything the repugs win is by default - obama ran as an FDR and then morphed into a ronnie raisin.

Posted by: manty on August 12, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

If government is by definition the problem, then why should voters think policy positions or qualifications important? Nihilism is a cheap narcotic and it's ultimately viral. Republicans delight in finding clever ways to to oversimplify and distort reality. It works in the short term but it does so by destroying trust itself. It will destroy this country, too.

Posted by: walt on August 12, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

This is a good insight, Steve, but I would take it one step further. The headline really should be: Tea Party-Backed Far Right Ideologues Winning GOP Primaries; Public Realizing that Far Right Ideologues are Fucking Weird People.

I mean, does anyone seriously have an expectation that you can find a "conservative" with a William F. Buckley level of establishment polish who will also get the gullible right-wing base fired up about UN conspiracies and 14th Amendment abolishment? The type of people who spout far right ideology are not ready for prime time. Gone are the days when David Duke could put a sheen of country club legitimacy on white supremacy. Anyone who believes in death panels, taxpayer-funded mosques, and ADA repeal is either a moron (*cough* Palin *cough*) or a loon (*cough* Paul *cough*) or both (*cough* Angle *cough*). And, surprise surprise, those same people are likely to have all kinds of weird history, traits, tastes, and beliefs. They are creepy motherfuckers, and yet the GOP based is prepared to make them senators and governors.

Posted by: Caustic Ignostic on August 12, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Manty, in the unlikely event that you actually are a disgruntled Democrat and not merely posing as one, I submit that the problem Democrats face in November is not due to "mindless promotion of dems and obama" as you suggest. It is instead the uncanny ability of Republicans and other arch conservatives to look to their leadership without the slightest hint of scrutiny.

Democrats are by nature far more self-critical than Republicans. It's what makes us better at running a government, as opposed to crippling it entirely. This time, just as in 1994, 2000, and 2004, the constant needling of "Democrats" like you is going to cost us dearly.

Posted by: chrenson on August 12, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Bill from PA -- whose comment was most recent when i began this -- makes the point I have been making for months. Thanks to the Republicans, this is looking closer to 1934 than to 1994. We may not make the gigantic gains we did then, but we'll pick up a couple of Senate seats and only lose, at most, a handful of House seats. (Even Walt Minnick -- by some rankings the most conservative Democrat in the House -- has managed to get an opponent so extreme he is now favored to keep a seat he was considered to be certain to lose -- remember he only won because even Republicans hated his predecessor, Bill Sali.)

To 'riff' on this further, this is why I find those Democrats who are worried about a Palin candidacy in 2012 to be so wrong-headed. There still are Republicans left who can count, and who are capable of realizing how disastrous the TPers have been to them.

The 'movement' probably cost them a half dozen Senate seats they should have won -- and they will probably be convinced that they would have won others as well. More, it cost them valuable money for the General that, instead, had to be spent on totally unnecessary primary fights -- even if the establishment candidate actually held on against the challenger.

I can assure you that these Republicans -- whose political ideas are still pretty ugly, but who have at least the sense that someone like Bob Inglis has shown -- will make it their business to see that Palin and Beck lose their influence rather quickly. (The McGiness book will provide 'cover' for the anti-Palin ones, whatever he says -- since I can't see him writing a 'puff piece' -- and somwthing tells me that even Rupert Murdoch is 'suddenly' going to realize that Beck's dubious and dangerous connection to scams like Goldline is a reason for 'regretfully' dismissing him.)

Another potential benefit we may receive from this is that some Republicans -- I am thinking Castle, the Maine ladies, and a couple of others -- may realize that cooperation is a more beneficial strategy than obstructionism and the 'permanent filibuster.'

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on August 12, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Politico: "Oh, those wacky repubs! They're so zany! (chuckle, chuckle)"

Wow, talk about "boys will be boys" bullshit. But what do you expect from Faux News in print.

I have to believe that the batshit crazy talk is going to motivate the sane to go to the polls. Especially minorities, who are on the receiving end of some real hate speech.

We have about three months to go in this election cycle and people are just starting to focus on the issues. It's time to start picking some fights and laying it out for them.

Posted by: bdop4 on August 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

...many Kentuckians think Mitch McConnell is a moderate sellout and they have been in love with Rand Paul since he started talking about running for office. I just can't for the life of me understand how so many can be so blind. I guess public schools are failing us after all.

Posted by: andyvillager on August 12, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I read Washington Monthly at least three times a day. I find the writing wonderfully illuminating and enjoy the wit as well. Thank you for being there! Good job.

Posted by: kathyfromohio on August 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

In Connecticut...

McCaint, are you paying attention? You need to step up the crazy.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on August 12, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Polit: short for "political"

Co: short for "corporation" or "company"

Indeed. Emblematic, exhibit A #1 of corporate-owned media.

Posted by: terraformer on August 12, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

McInnis was possibly right-wing enough for the Rs in Colorado. He just wasn't willing to go crazy enough in the primary-- and then he cratered due to the plagiarism thing. Maes may be slightly more crazy than most Rs in Colorado are willing to go with (though given that Tancredo is their other choice, I'm willing to be convinced).

The real question in Colorado is whether or not Maes or Tancredo can be marginalized enough to result in one of them not splitting the vote come November. If so, Hickenlooper can still lose. For reasons that are beyond reason, Colorado Rs and Is are loathe to vote for someone hung with the 'D' albatross.

Don't get me wrong: Maes, Tancredo, and Buck are the gifts that keep on giving. But it's entirely possible that the results in Colorado will still favor the Rs just because it's what Faux News says has to happen.

Posted by: truth=freedom on August 12, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah Idi Amin, he was just offbeat, too.

Posted by: Cataphract on August 12, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Mitch McConnell is a moderate sellout and they have been in love with Rand Paul since he started talking about running for office. I just can't for the life of me understand how so many can be so blind. I guess public schools are failing us after all.

More likely it's home-schooling and inbreeding at fault.

Posted by: G.Kerby on August 12, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder, how many Ds "crossed over" in the primaries to support these losers?

Posted by: shadou on August 12, 2010 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think any smart ones did, shadou. Remember Dan Savage suggested we support Bush, as he was unelectable? Bad idea. Remember Limbaugh's Operation Chaos. That put Obama in the White House.

No, surprisingly that type of voter manipulation has not been prosecuted in the courts. But it hasn't worked out well, either.

Where it looks like that kind of shenanigans has worked out is South Carolina. DeMint was looking to be in trouble until Greene won the primary.

Posted by: dave on August 16, 2010 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK



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