Nitpicking with Ezra Klein about Tea Party and Republican Primaries

Ok, I do it with love.  Ezra Klein is perhaps my favorite policy blogger, and he covers domestic and economic policy (and lots of it) at the Washington Post.  His Wonkbook is a must-read for me.  I look forward to it every day.  I learn so much from it.  In today's Wonkbook, Ezra has this to say about the success of a Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell over moderate Mike Castle in last night's Delaware primary, arguing that the Tea Party wins in moderate states will serve to scare Republican incumbents who survive:
It was hard for incumbent Republicans to see Sens. Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski unexpectedly toppled in their primaries. But Alaska and Utah are conservative, quirky states. They were likely targets for an angry conservative electorate. The same cannot be said for Delaware, a moderate state that often goes blue. Rep. Mike Castle's defeat was proof that no heterodox Republican is safe from a primary defeat -- it doesn't matter how popular you've been, or how clearly purple your electorate was. You're not safe. You're never safe.

[...] The Tea Party, for all its unexpected successes, cannot topple every incumbent Republican in the country. But by toppling the right ones, it can make every incumbent Republican vote and speak and act with the Tea Party in mind. So though the Te[a] Party isn't likely to send all that many of its own Republicans to Washington, the likely outcome of last night's primaries is that the Tea Party takes over the Republicans who are already in Washington, and don't want to be sent home.
I think this is certainly one of the likely possibilities.  But I want to consider another one.

The Republican establishment has harbored and nourished the Tea Party right wing thug movement for one reason and one reason alone: they thought the Tea Party would be their way of exploiting the populist anger (and, let's face it, white fear) for electoral gain.  But what they are likely finding instead is that the Tea Partiers are more interested in ideological purity than they are in electoral victory for the Republican Party.  If the Republican establishment has no use for the Tea Party electorally -- which I think will become even clearer after the November elections -- they will dump the Tea Party sooner than you can say "taxed enough already."  I think that if Republican ideological purity can be pitted against their electoral success, the Republicans will choose the latter, having learned their lesson.

Of course, it might already be too late for that.  The crazies may already have taken over.  Sarah Palin is a national sensation for the Tea Party and the Republicans.  John McCain is going around pouncing about the "dang fence."  Republicans found out the hard way that they now work for Fox News, not the other way around.  But none of them is naive enough not to know that they are doing it to exploit the Teabaggers for political, and in Sarah Palin's and Glen Beck's case, financial gain.  So what happens if the potential political gains don't materialize, and the Republicans who are more interested in power than ideology start fighting back?  I don't know, but it'd make for an interesting fight.


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