Tea’s Bitter Aftertaste
Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Delaware’s primary election, usually a sleepy affair, stunned the political world last week. In this week’s Centre Square commentary, Chris Satullo pays tribute to the man who suffered a stunning loss, Michael Castle.
A political party that kicks Mike Castle rudely to the curb is a party that has no interest in being a majority.
A party that treats Mike Castle as just another hack hanging onto his job is a party that has lost its bearings.
For once this week, Delaware is a center of political chatter. In the First State’s GOP primary last Tuesday, Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell handily defeated Castle, the lanky veteran who was looking to complete a rare triple play – serving as governor, congressman and senator.
Yes, Delaware politics is a tiny, clubby world – and until this week, an anachronistically civil one. If, as had once seemed inevitable, Castle had won the right to face Democrat Chris Coons in November, the First State would have featured the politest Senate campaign of these mid-terms. Coons’ mode the whole time would have been: “I respect Mike, Mike is my friend, but I do disagree with him on x, y or z.”
Well, goodbye to all that. O’Donnell’s surge to upset victory was primer on the potency of the Tea Party’s stance of free-floating anger. O’Donnell, a person whose shaky grasp of the concept of veracity was offset — for her fans — by a strong rhetorical and physical resemblance to Sarah Palin, went after Castle hard as an emblem of corrupt, out of touch Washington.
Mike Castle did not deserve that. Congress needs more people like him, not fewer.
Yes, Mike Castle had been in Washington a long time. But how did legislating become the only profession here actually having some experience at what you’re doing gets viewed as a liability. No one clamors for a surgeon who’s never held a scalpel, a pilot who’s never flown, a firefighter who’s befuddled by a hydrant. But America now clamors for lawmakers who proudly claim ignorance of how Congress works.
Well, in O’Donnell, Delaware Republicans got themselves a real novice.
And they kicked to the curb a man who used to define the party’s conscientious middle. A man who held Republican principles about restraint in government but who never let partisan agendas stand in the way of service to country – as when he stood strong for campaign finance reform.
The ignorance-is-bliss, anti-government mood may well have its moment of triumph on Nov. 2. But any party that can’t appreciate a Mike Castle is a party that isn’t really ready to govern.