Fewer and weirder Republican officeholders

The Tea Party crowd can nominate lunatics; but can it elect them? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

In Kentucky and Nevada, the Tea Party crowd managed to nominate a pair of lunatics for the U.S. Senate, thus giving Democrats shots at seats that seemed pretty hopeless. Rand Paul may persuade Kentuckians he’s not much crazier than they are, if he sticks to his strategy of only doing interviews with Fox News. But Sharron Angle is perhaps one degree too obtuse for Nevadans – even Sue “Chickens for Checkups” Lowden would probably have been a stronger candidate – giving former “dead man walking” Harry Reid a new lease on life.

The net result of the Tea Party’s success in seizing control of the GOP: fewer and weirder Republican officeholders. Not obviously a bad trade, from a narrowly partisan Democratic perspective. But in the longer run, the country needs two parties capable of governing.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

19 thoughts on “Fewer and weirder Republican officeholders”

  1. I dunno about "much crazier," but certainly crazy in a different way. He's gotta hope the ecumenicism of crazy saves his bacon.

  2. Fewer and crazier GOPers may seem advantagious to Dems on it's face but I don't know. Over the years the right has gotten loonier and loonier and it seems to make crazy more credible while destroying the credibility of the entire political enterprise.

    The raving wingnuts suck the oxygen out of sane debate and particularly in the senate the vote count doesn't seem to make much difference since the important bills are too watered down to do much good by the time they get to a vote.

  3. The conservative view of this, is that it will result in fewer Democrats in office. It's merely that more of them will be calling themselves Democrats. Kind of like, you've got two Liebermans; You oppose them both, one gets replaced with a liberal, one with a Republican. Was that a net loss, or a net gain? Depends on your perspective.

    Anyway, the fall election will be the real test. I think this will be an interesting election; In years past, if somebody the party establishment didn't like managed to beat the establishment favorite, the party froze them out in the general election, or even worked against them behind the scenes. I think, though, the GOP establishment has gotten so desperate for more "R"s, that they're not going to be doing that. Rand Paul might have to worry about some self-inflicted wounds, but he won't have to watch his back to avoid getting knifed by his own party, the way his dad was so many times.

  4. Both parties have a problem with the nutballs constituting their primary electorates, and dragging them away from what the median voter would prefer. Maxine Waters! Alan Grayson! Rand Paul! I have some hope that the Calif. open primary system will moderate the people chosen from both sides. We'll see.

  5. "But in the longer run, the country needs two parties capable of governing."

    True that. We already have a moderately conservative party of business that is capable of governing. However, the Democrats do need some credible opposition on their left.

  6. "I have some hope that the Calif. open primary system will moderate the people chosen from both sides."

    It will also likely have the effect of freezing out third party candidates even more than they are now.

  7. Does Alan Grayson advocate an armed uprising of the oppressed, the establishment of a workers' state, and the expropriation of capital from those who have unjustly accumulated it? The disappearance of the old hard left, crazy and obnoxious as it was, has shifted the notional centre absurdly far to the right when a milquetoast social democrat with a good line in polemic counts as an extremist.

  8. Are you saying that the Democrats are capable of governing? Because the rest of us are looking at this mess and wondering what the hell you're thinking. What happened to your standards?

  9. @Thomas:

    The mess belongs about 90% to George Bush: he of the insane pointless deficits funding corporate welfare and ceaseless wars and regulatory agencies that did a heckuva job. The knock on the Democrats (if any) is not that they created the mess; it is that they didn't clean it up quickly enough.

  10. Joe S. is correct but he's also a bit too kind – being well to the right of Richard Nixon does not make the Democratic Party "moderately conservative", it makes them very conservative (portions of their rhetoric notwithstanding). The center (i.e. liberalism) is already considerably to the left of modern Democrats, and we still have democratic socialists, socialists and communists to go.

    But yeah, it would be nice if any of the latter could mount some credible opposition. Not terribly likely in this media culture, unless some nice billionaire buys Newsweek for us (and swiftly dumps the abominable Jon Meacham).

  11. David, Grayson is mouthy, intemperate, and inordinately pleased with himself, and I suspect he's not that bright. But can you point to any extreme policies he's advocated or to any crazy fringe views?

  12. @ Warren Terra:

    I agree with you that Grayson is mouthy, intemperate, inordinately pleased with himself, and no extremist. I'm not sure that he is a dullard. In the old days, a good politician was a bright man who convinced the electorate that he was no brighter than they. Ike–a very, very, very bright man–is the classic example.

    Of course, with the advent of the mouth-breather faction of the Republican party, we have plenty of genuine dullards. I guess that this implies a certain kind of integrity–they don't have to misrepresent their intellect to their voting base.

  13. Scrooge, if you haven't notice, Obama's increased the pointless deficits, and continued the ceaseless wars, and his regulatory agencies have obviously done a heckuva job. Tell me, does Obama know yet whether the head of MMS was fired or quit? I'm sure he's all over the situation. He's busy not talking to his enemies, like the head of BP. You might notice one of these days that the administration is rapidly becoming a joke.

  14. Thomas:

    I said "pointless deficits." Obama's deficits are intended to get us out of Bush's recession. Bush's deficits were intended to toke his base and finance the brandishing of his little penis to the world. Obama is trying to do something about long-term costs of health care (which is where are long-term deficts are mostly embedded)–Bush just accelerated them to win the 2004 election. I know that Republican talking points deliberately ignore the distinction between short-term deficits and long-term deficits, but this is supposed to be a reality-based comment thread. Save the bamboozlement for a comment thread where it won't stand out.

    I admit that Obama is continuing one of Georgie's two ceaseless wars, but he is winding down the other tolerably well. Given that the Republicans would crucify him if he SURRENDERED TO THE TAIRISTS (TM), I'm not sure where the blame for remaining in Afghanistan should lie.

    And will you please explain to us what Obama is expected to do with BP? If he were talking to Hayward, the wingnuts would be all over him for interfering with the mighty majesty of the free market. SOSHLISM! FASCISM! Get out the Hilter moustache paint!

  15. Scrooge, don't be an idiot. The recession ended last July, didn't it? And yet the administration says we're going to run these deficits for years. Obama may be trying to do something about the long-term costs of health care, but what he's actually done is put the government on the hook for a larger share of the problem without any assurance that he's done anything to solve it. What we're doing in the short term is making the long term worse, not better.

    Obama is continuing both wars. Continuing. The timeline that he's adopted in Iraq is the Bush timeline, isn't it? And yet the same idiots who couldn't stop protesting for years are silent now. Hypocrites is too kind a word.

    What's he supposed to do with BP? He's the one who said that everything that BP does, BP does with the administration's direction. So I'd expect him to actually discuss things with BP. A guy who says he's willing to talk to Ahmadinejad isn't willing to talk to a CEO? What's he scared of? Learning something?

  16. Thomas, don't be a Republican shill. As far as I know, NBER hasn't dated the end of the recession yet. And if it did, nobody (except a Republican shill) would ignore the near 10% unemployment.

    Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometime, and I agree that Obama is following Bush's timeline on Iraq exit. But you can't say this and maintain that he is not leaving Iraq. Which one do you choose. Or has the Republican International not yet selected the proper party line?

    Any you sure can't say that the people protesting Afghanistan back in the Bush days aren't protesting now.

    You have a right to call me an idiot, so I have a right to call you Mr. Thomas Republican Ducktalk. I often disagree strongly with Brett Bellmore on these threads, but at least I'm reasonably sure that Brett is saying what Brett actually thinks. You are merely spouting Repblican party line, and not even trying to make sense.

  17. Scrooge, the Democrats at NBER were public earlier this year with their position. Obviously they'll change their tune if we end up with a double dip, because Democrats are generally incapable of objective analysis. But for now their position is that the recession's been over for nearly a year. Trust me, I'm familiar with the unemployment rate, and the fact that nearly a year into the recovery we're still not seeing strong growth in the private sector jobs numbers. I don't know why you think I'd want to ignore that, since it's central to the critique of our idiot president.

    Obama promised during the campaign to have all the troops out of Iraq in 16 months. That deadline has passed, hasn't it? And yet there were so many people who were assuring me that Obama's plan to end the war was an example of real differences between the party, and on an issue of moral consequence. (Many of those people also suggested that the budget deficits during the last administration led to inflation and to high oil prices, so you'd think they'd be too embarrassed to ever show their faces again, and yet these people confidently assure me that Obama is doing a fine job.)

    Hey, if you can find a protest for me to attend, I'd be happy to go. Any war at this point would be fine. US out of Arizona, whatever it is. Give me an anti-war rally. I just can't find one where I live. During the Bush years we'd see thousands of white crosses here to protest the deaths during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and yet last year and this year, there's been no similar remembrance. It's almost as if these protesters were using dead soldiers for their own disgusting political ends.

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