Maiello: Defeat the Press
Miami Fans Mistakenly Chant "Let's Go Eat" During Playoff Game
Almost one year ago, I wrote a post titled What's the Matter with New York? about the fierce battle between moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava and fringe conservative Doug Hoffman to represent New York's 23rd congressional district. Scozzafava dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democratic candidate, who prevailed in the election.
The title of that article alluded to Thomas Frank's influential book What's the Matter with Kansas, which documented the bitter "Mod" vs. "Con" conflict in Kansas during the 1990s from which the Cons ultimately emerged supreme. That conflict has since played out across the country. After Hoffman defeated Scozzafava, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs observed, "If you look at what I think is likely to happen next year, you already have Republicans -- some Republicans who are more aligned with the very conservative element of what's happening in New York saying, this is a model for what you'll see throughout the country."
These words were prophetic. From Florida to Alaska, North Carolina to Colorado, Tea Party backed Cons have knocked out establishment Mods at almost every turn. The latest Con victory took place in Delaware, as abstinence activist Christine O'Donnell defeated the moderate nine-term representative Mike Castle by six percentage points in the senate primary.
Some liberals, including my co-blogger Articleman, have cheered the success of fringe conservatives like O'Donnell because their victories will help Democrats retain critical seats, and indeed O'Donnell will almost certainly lose to Democrat Chris Coons in November. But the celebration is shortsighted. Last year, Democrats applauded Doug Hoffman's victory in NY-23, which ultimately gave the Democratic party an extra House seat. But Hoffman's success energized the nascent Tea Party movement, which has since mobilized millions of conservative voters who will contribute to an expected Democratic rout in November.
Likewise, the Republican civil war in Kansas did not cripple the state party. It emerged more powerful and unified than ever, and the Kansas Cons soon exported their success across country, contributing to twelve long years of Republican legislative dominance in Washington, first under Newt Gingrich and later under Tom DeLay, both of whom owe their support to the conservative faction. And as I have described in previous posts, the Republican party has gone through a series of civil wars and purges since the 1970s. In each case, short term losses have given way to long term political power under increasingly demagogic and right-wing firebrands who have been extraordinarily successful at mobilizing voters and unifying Republican legislators.
So rather than celebrating Tea Party successes, Democrats should drop the champagne glasses, jump to attention, and urgently seek an answer to the question, "What's the Matter with America?"