Just mentioning the name of the failed Senatorial candidate from Delaware, or even uttering the two-word phrase “I’m you!” still gives a lot of GOP supporters a case of the hives. In an election where the Republicans took back control of the House and put themselves in position to follow suit in the Senate this year, the all-too-mockable campaign of Christine O’Donnell stands out as an example of how we might have done even better.
O’Donnell’s nomination, in hindsight, was a misstep, even though I would contend that the same conditions that lost us the Delaware seat served us well in several other Senate and many House races.
But there was a hidden upside to O’Donnell’s nomination, which we saw yesterday in the battle over the onerous SOPA and PIPA bills. Many well-known Democrats, for example Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Al Franken, are on board with these bills, and have little incentive to change their stance. After all, by November the furor over this will largely be forgotten one way or another, and the risk that they might face a primary challenge over the outrage their positions generated is laughable. After all, Democrats voters may be many things, but they’re not so crazy as to defeat their own incumbent and sacrifice the advantage that the incumbancy brings in the general election.
But we, whether we call ourselves Republican, Tea Party, conservative, or what have you, we have demonstrated that we are just that crazy. Okay, technically Mike Castle was not an incumbent but in the context of the state of Delaware he would have carried a similar advantage. But O’Donnell was clearly the more conservative candidate, and she was rewarded, and Castle punished, by Republican voters accordingly.
That is why, when this website called for the primarying of no less of a star than Marco Rubio over his sponsoring of PIPA, Rubio had to take that seriously, and re-evaluate his position accordingly.
I’m a little dubious that yesterday’s Black Out really had the effect its participants imagine. Also, predictably, if a little distressingly, many circles are prepared to give President Obama all the credit should SOPA and PIPA fail.
But one thing that can’t be taken away from us in all of this, is the knowledge that most of our elected representatives still feel the leash around their necks, and can be swayed by influences outside the bubble of the Beltway. That can be a big advantage, if we know how to use it.