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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Tea Party's Record of Failure

One of the better moments from the primary elections earlier this week came in the form of an interview of Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The whole thing is about twenty minutes long, but Paul repeats himself a lot, so if you want to drag that pointer at the bottom of the video and skim through it, you won't miss too much.

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Not surprisingly, Paul now says that sitting down with Maddow to discuss the merits of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a "poor political decision" that "probably won't be happening anytime in the near future." Yeah, candidates for the United States Senate should totally avoid discussing their legislative philosophies. Stating your beliefs is a big mistake.

This was the Tea Party's chosen candidate and he stomped his primary opponent, defeating Kentucky Secretary of State and the GOP establishment's choice Trey Grayson. Kind of demonstrates why the party wanted someone else, doesn't it?

What's sad is that Paul is going to have a lot of defenders here. There's Paul's own Libertarian take that refusing service to a group of people constitutes some sort of speech. And, of course, there are the bona fide racists who wish the Civil Rights Act had never been passed in the first place. But the people you should probably watch most are the religious right who would dearly love to be able to discriminate against gays and lesbians. These people never seem to let anything go and, once an argument occurs to them (or, as in this case, is brought to their attention), they never let it go. It is automatically Gospel. For them, the idea that the 1964 Civil Rights Act set a bad precedent won't be a matter of opinion, it will be a matter of fact. They're already freaking out about Hate Crimes legislation and the idea that treating a group of people as second class citizens is protected speech must be incredibly attractive to them.

The question is whether Paul, having established himself as crazy enough for the teabaggers, has now established himself as too crazy for voters in Kentucky's general election. What the Tea Party seems to believe is that voters reject Republicans who are too liberal, instead voting for Democrats who are even more liberal. Therefore, what they need to do is get the most conservative -- scratch that -- most rightwing and extreme candidate possible.

This hasn't worked out so well. Of the eight special elections that have taken place since 2008, Republicans have won one of them. And the one candidate who won was a moderate-to-liberal Republican -- Scott Brown in Massachusetts -- who the Tea Party had convinced themselves was an arch-conservative. Having fooled themselves about Brown, they now accuse him of betraying them.

It pays to point out that the one success teabaggers have had with electing a candidate involved lying to themselves and being wrong about that candidate. Their idea of winners have a track record of being losers. And, like the religious right, once they get an idea in their heads, they don't let it go. Keep practicing the same failed strategy over and over and it'll start working... Just you wait and see. But so far, no one the teabaggers consider a "real" Tea Party candidate sits in Washington. As a result of all this insurgent wingnut effort, Nancy Pelosi's majority has grown and Republican's share of congress has shrunk. Gonna be a big Republican year!

Except Republicans start it by already being seven points down.

I've been saying it a lot and I'm going to keep saying it until I'm proven right or wrong; the "big GOP year" story is grossly overstated. And, so long as the teabaggers make Republican primaries a wingnut purity test, rather than an exercise in good politics, I think I'm probably on the right track.


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