Tea Party candidates–or at least candidates with support from Sarah Palin and/or Jim Demint–continue to knock off “establishment” Republicans. Party hacks are disturbed: These aspiring populist leaders are unseasoned and will go down in defeat against the Democrats. Why can’t we all just get along? (I am not going to bore you with quotations from Carl Rove, Charles Krauthammer, et al., since you can troll the internet gutters with your own line.) The most hackneyed phrase repeated by the hacks is the so-called Buckley Rule: to vote for the most electable conservative in a primary—or is it most electable Republican?
With all due respect to the late Bill Buckley, he was no great political strategist. It was his publisher Bill Rusher who organized the Draft Goldwater movement, and while WFB hung out with many politicians–most of them liberals and leftists–his one political campaign was his entirely quixotic attempt to become mayor of New York City. I haven’t the patience to find his original statement, but if it is to vote for the most electable conservative (whatever the C-word means these days), that is just what many voters have done in repudiating liberal mainstream Republicans who cannot wait to be paid for sleeping with the enemy.
As a negative force, the Tea-Partiers are doing a great service to the Republican Party, and even if some of their candidates, by losing in the general election, serve to prolong the current misadministration of national government, it may in the long run be worth it–that is, if there is a long run. For over a century, conservative Americans have been told to vote for the lesser of two evils. If they could once start voting for what they believe to be good, it might be a revolution.
Yes, might be. Because Rove and his cronies have a point. Untested populist candidates do not always turn out to be a Mr. Smith gone to Washington. How long does it take a freshman congressman to sell out? Ask Newt Gingrich or Lindsey Graham–they were dewy-eyed freshmen once. In politics an honest man is simply a neophyte too valueless to command a good price. If you believe in the goodness of human nature, then you can have faith in whatever power-seeking pol is churned up from the dregs by a populist upsurge. It has never happened in the past, but who knows, perhaps as George Gilder used to argue, the microchip has enabled us to transcend the limits of human nature.
You see, human nature is the problem, not just the universal problems of concupiscence and libido dominandi, but the American variation on human nature: As a people we are naive, gullible, trivial, and self-centered. We get the leaders we deserve, and to expect better leaders we must get to work on becoming a better people. As things are, the face of America is the collective visage of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, George Bush, John McCain, Mitch McConnell . . . you get the idea: smug in our ignorance, vain in our venality, and stupified in our self-absorption.
So, in the short run let us all rejoice in the rejection of the business-as-usual GOP, and in the not-so-short run let us sit back and enjoy the spectacle of all these Mr. Jefferson Smiths turning into Senator Joseph Harrison Paines. Anyone up for a betting pool?