Christine O’Donnell’s victory in the Delaware Senate primary last week was remarkable. Against overwhelming odds she defeated liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle, a former Governor of the state and a 16 year member of Congress. O’Donnell’s victory sent shock waves through the GOP establishment, conveyed the electoral strength of the “Tea Party” movement, and has alarmed me in a way that I can’t quite figure out.
The victory of so-called Tea Party candidates throughout America this election cycle has been amazing and, in my opinion, good for our country. Whether it is Marco Rubio in Florida chasing a sitting Governor out of the Republican party, Rand Paul in Kentucky dispatching an establishment backed, liberal Republican, or Carl Paladino’s stunning victory in the New York Gubernatorial primary, solid, qualified, conservative candidates have been scoring tremendous victories for conservatives and conservatism. O’Donnell’s victory does not compare with the three I’ve just mentioned, and I will explain why.
The O’Donnell victory has evinced the first fissures in the conservative movement during the 2010 election cycle, and it started with Karl Rove. I was disappointed with Rove's remarks following Ms. O’Donnell’s victory in the Delaware Senate primary. I do not understand why a man I respect a great deal, and know to be a conservative, would so overtly trash another Republican on national television. I appreciate the concern among some (a concern I hold) that O’Donnell’s win in the primary could cost the GOP an opportunity to win in Delaware, and thus cost us an opportunity to control the Senate; I was shocked, however, by the level of vitriol in Karl’s remarks.
Although I believe Rove was out of line, he has a right to his opinion, and he has been a champion for conservatism throughout his career, going all the way back to his time with the National Young Republicans in the 70’s and 80’s. So, imagine my surprise when other conservatives started trashing Karl for not being a conservative simply because he, albeit in a clumsy way, expressed his concern about the outcome in Delaware. Karl’s remarks were followed by remarks and a column by Charles Krauthammer (the dean of conservative columnists) expressing his concerns about Ms. O’Donnell and her electability in very left leaning (http://bit.ly/ag1gZb) Delaware. Karl’s comments were the spark, Krauthammer’s were the gasoline.
All of a sudden there appears to be a litmus test for who is “conservative enough”. Those people who are railing against Charles Krauthammer quite clearly have no idea what a tremendous asset he has been to the ideals of conservatism. Outside of perhaps Thomas Sowell, there has been no columnist who has done a more effective job of advocating conservatism in this country and explaining the benefits of conservatism in a way that appeals to a broad spectrum of Americans. To dismiss this man as an “establishment Republican” discredits his work and does a disservice to all those Republicans who understand that the most important vote cast next year in the Senate will be the vote for Senate Majority Leader. Mike Castle would very likely have won in Delaware and would have voted for the Republican as Senate Majority Leader.
I have become more and more frustrated and disgusted with people who think they “own” conservatism, or to a greater degree, “own” the Constitution. The great Edmund Burke said, “the greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feeling for others but from an over-sensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires.” I was reminded of this quote when reflecting on the events of the past week. This notion of “over-sensibility for ourselves” truly speaks to those people who KNOW that Rove, Krauthammer, and others can’t be conservative because, Heaven forbid, they have a different opinion. Of course, “over-indulgence of our own desires” can very well be the belief that your knowledge of our Constitution is great than mine, therefore my interpretation is not “true to the cause of freedom” in the way that your beliefs are. That’s all hogwash!
The concerns expressed about the electability of Ms. O’Donnell by other Republicans are legitimate. We can’t just turn a blind eye to those concerns because we prefer a world in which all of our “Tea Party” candidates are the perfect representation of our thoughts, ideals, and beliefs. She now has to defeat a liberal Democrat who has won statewide in a left leaning state while addressing the fact that she is not gainfully employed, has had significant financial troubles in her past, and has, over the years, expressed opinions on social issues that do not appear to be in line with the beliefs of the vast majority of Delawareans (effectively detailed by John McCormack in The Weekly Standard). After all, she is running on fiscal accountability and personal responsibility in the state of Delaware.
I hope that Christine O’Donnell shocks the world and wins in Delaware. Not because I think she will be a remarkable Senator, I don’t, but because she will be one more vote for a Republican Senate Majority Leader. We do not have to pretend that she has the level of accomplishments of a Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, or that she is as qualified as Sharron Angel. And, we do not have to demonize conservatives who have real concerns about O’Donnell’s electability just because we don’t share their opinion.