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We're nearly half way through October and the press still seems
mystified by the strength of grass-roots conservatism. The race between
perennial candidate and some-time witch Christine O'Donnell and her
mealy eyed opponent, is a nearly perfect example of how this year's
midterms continue to be weave a narrative the mainstream media just
can't seem to get its head around (see here for example). Does the
tea-party represent a rightward shift in the American electorate, or
has the election of a black president really driven white America over
the edge? What no one seems to be asking, however, is whether or not
this movement might actually be a big red flag for the red-party.
Considering that GOP turnout for the Delaware primary was just 32%. you
would think the press would have been less impressed with O'Donnell's
win than they were. Granted, 32% is pretty good for a midterm primary,
but it also means that Ms. O'Donnell won by just over half of that. And
that's 32% of registered Republicans, not the entire electorate.
Libertarians and moderates, it seems never even bothered to show up. So
far the tea-party phenomenon looks less like a barometer of the
electorate's mood and more like an internal struggle for representation
within the Republican party - something that goes on in every primary,
every election.
While it is possible that the take over of the GOP by its most extreme
fringes very well could mean that the party has gained conservative
converts, it could also mean that the GOP has lost the confidence of
moderate conservatives. And it's this latter case which could spell
trouble for the GOP going forward. Even if they can win enough seats to
claim victory in November, a tea-party dominated GOP is likely to
alienate moderates even further. With nowhere else to go, these voters
might swell the ranks of the unaffiliated, distilling the party even
further, which will alienate more voters, distilling it further and so
on. In other words, the less appealing to the middle GOP candidates
become, the more they risk increasing the appeal of the opposition - or
worse, inciting moderates to just not show up at all. This mass of
unaffiliated, generally turned-off voters would be a prime recruiting
ground for a third party. It is, of course, nearly impossible to tell
which scenario is currently playing out. However, if it is the latter,
then big tea-party wins in November will likely only mean big-time
trouble in 2012. The GOP is banking on the tea-party to gain influence
in Congress. Maybe in this case they should have been more careful with
what they wished for.


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