Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 19, 2010

Ballot Box Revolt: It’s the Power the People Have to Use

I’ll issue one more caveat about liking the heck out of Karl Rove.  I think his expertise is not as applicable as it has sometimes been to the predicament voters find themselves in this year.  But I don’t accuse Rove of being what we used to call – with a sneer – a “Rockefeller Republican.”

Probably the most dissonant point he made in the past week is the one about Republican “strategy.”  Along with many others, I thought, before the Tuesday primary, that Delaware voters would follow a conventional route and approve Mike Castle.  Even though he’s a RINO, he has looked more likely than Christine O’Donnell to beat Democrat Chris Coons.

But Rove didn’t just expect them to do that:  he wanted them to do that.  The RNC was urging voters to do that.  From the perspective of electoral strategists, strategic voting is a sound practice that voters need to be sold on.  Vote for a RINO to get a Senate majority – that’s their plan.

And it’s a perfectly logical one if the objective is to get a Republican majority in the Senate.  But that wasn’t the objective of the Delaware voters when they went to the polls on Tuesday.  Their objective was to vote for the platform they want, and not for the continuation of the platform that has produced our current conditions.  They were less concerned with positioning the GOP for a Senate majority than with registering what they want to hear from a candidate, and the direction they want our lawmaking to go.

What Rove and those in the GOP leadership need to understand is that a citizen’s vote is the main tool he has to express himself politically.  There comes a time when he has to use it for his own purposes, rather than as someone else’s tactical tire-tool; and 2010 is one of those times.

I can’t count how often this year I’ve heard the following expressed one way or another:  “Things have got to change.  I don’t even care if I’m voting for the candidate who supposedly can win.  I’ve got to vote for the candidate who’s saying what I believe in, and let the rest take care of itself.  We can’t keep voting for the same old people.  Maybe it’ll take some time to get some leadership for a new direction, but it will never happen if we keep bringing back all the folks who got us into this mess.”

There is wisdom in this.  The conservative right has a number of people in political leadership who have good ideas and real promise, even though none are looking dominant in the presidential category today.  I don’t think that’s really a problem.  Republicans – in fact, conservatives as a whole – have to unite around a core set of governing principles before a single national leader will emerge.

I think many high-information voters see things this way: if we can retake the House and achieve a blocking minority in the Senate – both of which are increasingly probable, even if O’Donnell loses in Delaware – Congress can act as a check on Obama until January 2013.

On the other hand, a RINO-heavy Congressional majority would be likely to set Obama’s course in stone – e.g., with only marginal changes to Obamacare, with some version of amnesty and some version of cap-and-trade – and actually make the Obama agenda harder to decouple from down the road.

The Republicans who would take over as a majority in 2011 just aren’t convincing to a lot of voters.  The voters aren’t stupid; they’re using their votes for their own purposes.  It’s not a knock on Karl Rove that his electoral advice has been overruled.  It’s a signal that something much bigger is going on, and the rules have gone out the window.  Expertise with running campaigns is secondary right now.  In first place is a candidate’s message – and the people are listening with a very critical ear.  They’ve left their party’s, and nation’s, direction on autopilot for a long time now, but they’re no longer willing to.  Their vote is the one thing they have direct, personal control over, and they’re using it to do what they want to do.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. C’mon, Karl — knock off the pissy act and put us some GOTV info. You weren’t a policy guy, you were a tactics guy — let’s hear something about tactics.

  2. OC does not endorse, and indeed explicitly disavows, the proposition that anyone who supported Castle or even raised concerns about O’Donnell’s strength or lack of such as candidate is a corrupt, power-hungry RINO in hock to the MSM and K-Street. Yet she must admit that this is precisely the position taken by at least some on the Right, a position almost as scrupulously honest and fastidiously subtle as that of those on the left who content that anyone opposing Obamacare is an ignorant, violent racist (in not a potential domestic terrorist) determined to see the poor and especially the children die in the streets for lack of medical care. (Or that anyone not doing cartwheels over the prospect of the GSM is necessarily and Islamaphobe and general bigot).

    The fact is that many of us are terrified of the entirety of the Obama/Pelosi project and would prefer to have the 50%(40, 35?) of a Castle vote for repeal roll back than the certainty of the invariable and enthusiastic support of the Bearded Marxist (well, clean-shaven and follicly-challenged Marxists). Many of us who were skeptical of D’Odonnell but were much more put off (this certainly applies to myself and at least some others) by the silly, primitive, indeed almost Obamaesque rhetoric.

    It is noteworthy that many of her supporters in a manner very similar to that of many in the MSM tended to conflate her with Paul, Angle, Buck, Lee, Rubio, Miller* – in roughly the ascending order of strength – irrespective of the distinct electoral circumstances and personal characteristics of the individual candidates.

    OC, however, makes by far the strongest point in favor of O’Donnell, specifically respecting the value of the message sent by the defeat of Mike Castle: namely that there is a danger from the right and indeed from the center in any inclination to try to appeal to supposed “moderate” voters and come to too much of an accommodation with the Dear Leader.

    Unlike some of O’Donnells supporters I do not believe that even a meaningful minority of the Republican Senators are unaware of the monstrosity of Obamacare and desirous of repealing it. As the process moves along, however the polls might change, the economy turn up (some), Barry’s numbers rise a bit and fear of the alleged “center” might diminish the resolution of at least some Senator currently determined to do everything they can cripple and as soon as possible repeal Obamacare. Caslte’s defeat should serve as a valuable spine-stiffner and thus might in the end result in a great number of of votes than Castle’s somewhat dubious one. (Indeed many thought – wrongly – that he supported Obamacare. This, however, is partially his fault as he never advertised his opposition and support for repeal and chose instead to emphasize his electability and attack O’Donnell. This certainly makes one doubt just how much his vote could be relied on when push came to shove and make the lose of this “potential vote” easier to stomach.)

    *I’m quite sure that Mitch McConnell would rather have had O’Donnell conservative vote rather than Castle’s moderation – he was serially accused of the latter. Unfortunately, and as much as I admire McConnell I do think, based on what one hears and reads, he might have preferred Bennett over Lee even though there was not electoral price to pay for the ideological upgrade Murkowski over Miller even though the electoral risk was minimal – he better win. Here, though I think these faulty preferences would be more accurate ascribed to personal rather than ideological considerations.

  3. I actually think that the entire US political system is no longer believable to many segments of the US population. Victor Davis Hansen is a lot better at articulating this point than I am. People that live in California fully understand what a financial mess the Democratic controlled state is in. People in the rest of the country I suppose are waking up to see that they are next for their states to collapse. We’re all stuck here in this country and as one of my friends always says, where do the elites think they’re going to move to when the US collapses. Rule by “trust fund babies” doesn’t work. Daddy always dies and then the children are going to have to actually work, and p.s. if you don’t get it that’s what has been running the Democratic party nationally for about the last 20 years, “trust fund babies”.

  4. This year we’re taking back our party and our country ! Enough with the top-down GOP. You won’t tell us how to vote, we tell you ! Listening to the establishment in the GOP is what got us John F’ing McCain as the Presidential Candidate ! Enough ! You will listen to us GOP or by God we WILL start another party and you’ll be on the ash heap of history like the Whigs, the Federalist and the Democratic-Republican Parties.

    • If the GOP doesn’t repeal Obamacare, get spending under control, institute a minimally sensible tax system (very doubtful – how well is the need for such reform which will genuinely constrain the power of Washington – until it “evolves”, of course – really understood) and institute a sane and sufficiently well funded foreign policy (alright, who are we kidding), it will indeed go the way of the Whigs and deserve to do so.

  5. Their objective was to vote for the platform they want, and not for the continuation of the platform that has produced our current conditions.

    Because doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

    Stop the madness.

  6. Even if you accept that the odds of a Christine O’Donnell win are much longer than a Castle win (which I don’t), you can make a good case that backing O’Donnell is the better vote for preserving political capital. In certain games of chance — poker, for instance — the actual odds are not so important as money management.

    Here, for conservatives, the pot to be won if O’Donnell can beat the Democrat is much greater than the pot that would be won by electing another RINO to serve as tax collector for the socialist state. So, the smart play is to try for the longer odds because of the greater payout. (E.g., taking a 20% chance to win a million dollars is a much better play than an 80% chance to win a thousand.)

    And the pot attains even greater significance because (if I understand correctly) this seat could change hands before the rest of the Congress is seated, thus possibly derailing any lame duck sessions of Congress. In such a lame duck session, Castle would be as useless as tits on a mule.

    Speaking of Karl Rove: Ms. O’Donnell has been attacked for stating that she dabbled in witchcraft in her teenage years. Trying to deflect the attack, she assured us that all witchcraft associations have ended, else Mr. Rove would now be a supporter. I say she should have turned him into a frog.

  7. The annoyance at Mr. Rove is perfectly in tune with the Tea Party. Mr. Rove contends that Republicans should follow a BIG plan and do what they are told is good for the party as a whole, even if it is not good for them specifically. This looks like the same fuel the Tea Party currently is running on.

    Small Gov’t means I make my choices in life, not someone I don’t know from who-knows-where doing it for me. Mr. Rove understands winning elections and working the system, but he doesn’t “get” the Tea Party. He may fund it, but it is clear he doesn’t get it.

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