The sound you hear is the wringing of hands across the nation. Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell just beat establishment guy Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination in Delaware. I can’t remember when something sparked the talk radio airwaves as much as this li’l ol’ primary election did. To hear the pundits talk, you’d think that the fate of the nation rests on the outcome.
And they’re mostly right. Just not in the way that they think.
The importance of the Delaware primary isn’t so much about who’s “electable” and who’s not, or even about who can best beat the Democrat in November. What is important is the message that O’Donnell’s nomination sends to the Republican Party at large: Mike Castle is no conservative. He’s consistently shown a willingness to go along with significant parts of the Democrat agenda. He would not be an effective stop against the leftward lurch of Congress. And he wouldn’t be a dependable vote in a tight pinch. In short, he would have been a thorn in the GOP’s side at every turn. We don’t need another one of those in the Senate.
Delaware’s primary voters understood this. The establishment, however, couldn’t see any farther than winning the election. But even if you win, if the guy you elected won’t advance the conservative cause then what’s the point? All Castle would have done is maybe slow the Democrats down a little, all while giving Barack Obama bipartisan cover for things like Cap and Trade, which he voted for in the House. The voters, in sending Castle back down to the minors, are telling the GOP, “No mas!” They’re not sending any more RINOs to Washington. They want actual conservatives–and they’re willing to risk defeat with a candidate like O’Donnell to accomplish that goal.
Is that a winning tactic? Maybe not in the short term, if Karl Rove is right. In terms of strategy, though, it’s a different story. If anything, O’Donnell’s victory puts Congressional Republicans on notice that lip service to the principles of limited government will no longer be tolerated. Voters actually want to see some real change, not just Democrat Lite. In the long term, I think that can only help the GOP get back to its roots of lower taxes, smaller government and sustainable spending.