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October 31, 2013 11:57 AM Barton For Senate! Let It Be So!

By Ed Kilgore

When I first read about this via Warren Throckmorton, I spontaneously uttered a prayer of thanks for the potential writing material that might be in the offing:

There is a lot of chatter these days among tea partiers in Texas about who should run against John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate primary. Despite a conservative voting record, Cornyn is being targeted by the tea party set because he is perceived to be soft on Obamacare, immigration, taxes and the national debt. As I reported on Monday, David Barton has been asked by some tea party folks to consider a challenge to Cornyn. The spin is that Barton has party experience, broad name recognition, and, probably with Glenn Beck’s help, could access adequate funds for a Senate campaign.

Wow. This possibility dwarfs even Craig James’ disastrous 2012 Senate campaign in Texas as a possible source of schadenfreude.

In case you’re not familiar with David Barton, he’s the “historian” who is heavily responsible for the “Christian Nation” meme beloved of conservative pols, and for the inversion by conservative evangelicals of their historic support for separation of church and state (the above-mentioned Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical Christian scholar himself, co-authored a recent book debunking Barton’s especially twisted take on Thomas Jefferson).

Barton is naturally well-traveled in Christian Right and Tea Party circles, and that’s why his name is being tossed around in Texas. There are signs Barton and his family are pretty heavily involved in the effort to “draft” him into an attempted purge. According to Betsy Woodruff, writing at National Review’s The Corner:

JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Texas-based Grassroots America We The People, says that a number of tea-party leaders are slated to have a conference call with Barton in the next few days to discuss his senatorial prospects. “We need a Constitutional conservative in that seat,” she says. “We believe that Senator Cornyn has become part of the establishment and we don’t believe that his priorities reflect the priorities of the people of Texas any longer.”

If that sounds implausible, recall that Ted Cruz’s challenge to conservative warhorse David Dewhurst in Texas last year was initially considered a very long shot as well. Since Cornyn has been trying pretty hard to echo the political views of his junior colleague of late, maybe Cruz will offer him cover just as Rand Paul has done for Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. But Barton is a really, really big deal in Christian Right circles, right up there with the late Francis Schaeffer as a molder of the modern theocratic point of view. So if anyone can launch a credible “purge” against Cornyn, he might be the one.

For a blogger of my particular inclinations, the idea of a Barton vs. Cornyn primary fills me with extraordinary joy. Please, Lord, let it be so!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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