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They'd Rather Be Right - Extreme Right - Than Win 

The Republican Party is dead. Anyway, that’s what some of the gang at the Oregon Catalyst site are saying – and they couldn’t be happier about it.

“The Republican Party is dead,” proclaims poster Jerry Dawson. “Goodbye. Farewell. So long. Hasta luego. The sad display of the tired, old, out-of-touch, feeble, eviscerated, brain-dead, oafish, thick-witted, witless, moronic, vacuous, self-centered Republican guard standing tall against Christine O’Donnell spelled the end of the Grand Old Party.”

Dawson was rejoicing over Tea Party darling O’Donnell’s victory in the Delaware Republican Senate primary against GOP establishment candidate Mike Castle, a nine-term congressman who was once widely considered a shoo-in for the nomination.

O’Donnell’s background is sketchy and her opinions are even sketchier – among other things, she maintains that creationism has just as much scientific evidence behind it as evolution, and has equated masturbation with adultery; even Karl “Turdblossom” Rove once described her as “nutty”. But no matter: She sticks to the far-right party line and Sarah Palin endorsed her, and that’s good enough for the Tea Partiers.

O’Donnell’s win in Delaware was only one in a string of victories the Tea Partiers are celebrating. In New York, Carl Paladino knocked off the GOP establishment choice, former congressman Rick Lazio, to capture the gubernatorial nomination. “New Yorkers are fed up,” Paladino declared in his victory speech. “Tonight the ruling class knows. They have seen it now. There is a people's revolution. The people have had enough” – strange sentiments coming from a multimillionaire developer.

Other Tea Party candidates have knocked off the party establishment choices in Florida, Kentucky, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada and Alaska.

The Tea Party movement appears not to have taken over the Republican Party in Oregon yet; gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley seems like a fairly moderate guy, and Senate candidate Jim Huffman, while an orthodox movement conservative on economic matters, is far from being an outright nut case like O’Donnell or Nevada’s Sharron Angle. But it’s probably only a matter of time.

When the whooping and hollering over their primary victories dies down, the freshly brewed Republican / Tea Party must get down to the task of winning general elections. And that could turn out to be a bit tougher.

Before the great elephant stampede to the right, the Republicans were considered to have a good shot at taking back control of the House and maybe the Senate in November. They even hoped to knock off the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. But the victories of Angle and O’Donnell have suddenly turned Reid and Chris Coon, the Democratic Senate candidate in Delaware, into front-runners, and the GOP’s chances of winning 10 additional seats to gain a majority in the Senate have dimmed.

The Tea Partiers don’t understand it, living as they do in a reality-free zone bounded by Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but their views are far, far outside the American political mainstream. In a just-released CBS News / New York Times poll, only 19% of those questioned said they supported the Tea Party movement; 63% said they didn’t, and 18% didn’t know. Similarly, the poll found that only 21% held a favorable view of Sarah Palin, while 46% were unfavorable and 33% were undecided. Only 12% said a Palin endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate; 37% said it would make them less likely.

The Tea Partiers like to point to the slipping approval numbers of President Obama (45% according to the latest CBS / Times poll) but it’s not a slam dunk that disapproval of Obama will translate into votes for extreme right-wing candidates, especially in moderate-to-liberal states like Delaware and New York.

Some of the Tea Party enthusiasts don’t even seem to care. As one of the comments on Oregon Catalyst puts it: “I would rather lose with my PRINCIPLES intact. Then Win as a RINO [Republican in Name Only] with none.” The grammar and spelling won’t win any prizes, but he makes his point clearly.

All this should not really be surprising. Historically, the Republican Party has tended from time to time to make an abrupt hard right turn and go careening over a cliff. The most notorious example in modern times was the presidential nomination in 1964 of Barry Goldwater, who went on to get crushed by Lyndon Johnson. Eventually, though, the GOP always has returned to its senses and sent the loonies back into the closets they emerged from.

I sincerely hope that after the Tea Party fever subsides, it will happen again. This country needs the ideological balance a rational, credible conservative party can provide.

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