A Further Perspective

What Did Christine O’Donnell Do to Deserve This?

The Republicans pile on, too -- and let's keep Bill Buckley out of it.

By 9.20.10

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It may be time for Republicans, inside and outside the Beltway, to suck it up and admit that they need the Tea Party more than the Tea Party needs them.

This thought was prompted by the deluge of snarky comments, even disgust from so many Republican officials, directed at Christine O'Donnell, the winner of the GOP primary for Senate in Delaware. Karl Rove, unnamed sources at various party committees and now Charles Krauthammer are piling on.

What did Christie O'Donnell do to deserve this?

Krauthammer, writing in his column in the Washington Post, pontificates on the endorsement of O'Donnell by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Governor Sarah Palin as being "so reckless and irresponsible."

In support of his criticism he cites a rule supposedly articulated by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., father of modern American conservatism, to support the most conservative candidate "who is electable." The italics are Krauthammer's, and he fails to cite the source for this rule.

If Buckley did have such a rule, it was, to steal a line from Bill Murray, more of a guideline. After all, it was Buckley himself who, in 1965, ran for mayor of New York City as a third-party candidate with the aim of derailing or at least criticizing the wayward policies of the very liberal Republican congressman, John Lindsay. When asked what he would do if he was elected, Buckley responded, "Demand a recount." Clearly, the purposes of his candidacy were other than electing the person who happened to be occupying some sacrosanct space for Republicans. No doubt, his campaign was a fantastic opportunity for conservative agitprop, what we might call a "teachable moment" today.

Buckley wrote a book about his mayoral campaign, The Unmaking of a Mayor (1965).

Moreover, in 1988 Buckley organized BuckPac, a political action committee dedicated to unseating liberal Republican Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., which, as it turned out, resulted in the election of Connecticut's current liberal senator, Joe Lieberman.

While it is not really good form to speculate on motives, it is not hard to see a purifying or punitive dimension to the great man's actions -- or at least something other than necessarily backing the most electable Republican.

I do not begrudge any Republican who supported O'Donnell's opponent, Congressman Mike Castle, no doubt a certain victor in the general election. But O'Donnell won, fair and square. Moreover, she is a prominent representative of a vibrant political movement of which the GOP is the primary beneficiary.

The idea of fellow Republicans waging guerrilla war on O'Donnell is simply beyond bizarre. Moreover, it legitimizes those pundits, journalists and commentators who seem to be offended by her traditional moral and religious values, again, characteristics of some of the most loyal elements of the conservative and, hopefully, Republican coalition.

Stop the madness!

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.