What Does Christine O'Donnell's Win Say?
On Tuesday, Christine O’Donnell won the Republican primary in Delaware over Mike Castle, who had been favored since he announced. In terms of his record as a conservative, Castle was a disaster, but he had never lost an election as a longtime Congressman in deep blue Delaware. A few days ago, Eric Erickson of RedState summed up the feelings of many conservatives when he said he’d rather have a 50-50 Senate than a 51-seat majority with Castle.
So confident of a general election victory for Castle (polls showed him far ahead of the Democrat) were Republicans that to their shame (certainly as it turned out) fairly shelled O’Donnell with negative advertising when she actually pulled into contention with Castle. Certainly polls so far have shown O’Donnell not faring as well. Certainly O‘Donnell hasn’t a long resume of experience in public office. And certainly she’s somewhat removed from Delaware’s ideological history. She has one thing going for her that Castle does not, which is of no small consequence: she’s actually RIGHT on most of the issues.
Christine O’Donnell is hardly a rookie on public policy, having represented groups, commented on policy for years on public forums, run for the Republican nomination in 2006 and been the Senate candidate in 2008. But especially after she was savaged for inexperience by both Democrats and Republicans, one legendary line leapt to mind: Long ago, William F. Buckley famously said, “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Even if in political terms O’Donnell were similarly pedestrian, which she is not, I would feel similarly about Mike Castle. I’d rather seat my deceased grandmother in The Senate than Mike Castle. So, it’s only a tremendous bonus that Christine O’Donnell is linguistically and policy literate AND RIGHT! So, what’s the problem?
The problem is basically the one that does keep me up at night. I sorely fear that Republicans are mired in the habit of posturing for power and have not recognized an opportunity to be clear about the virtues of liberty and constitutional principle that is unique to our lifetime. That makes me wonder about the dexterity with which they may exercise power even if they win it. We may get a quick hint about their resolve if they in any sense sit back and concede defeat in Delaware rather than marketing O’Donnell’s positive attributes with a vengeance. It can scarcely be plainer that this year, the American people would prefer NOT to elect Democrats. If they can’t sell principle that they supposedly believe is the truth, this year, then they are more waitresses taking orders than salesman marketing a unique product.