Castle’s bitter refusal to endorse Christine O’Donnell suggests that Republicans have a problem. No, it’s not a tea party problem, as liberal wishful-thinkers are maintaining. It’s hardly debatable that the tea party groundswell has been an indicator primarily of political woes for Democrats. As Jonah Goldberg puts it, assuming O’Donnell can’t win, “What it proves is that amidst a massive and massively successful grassroots uprising, the tea parties miscalculated in one race. Unfortunate, but hardly calamitous.”
But Castle’s “screw you guys, I’m going home” moment suggests that what the GOP has is a problem with its moderates. There is no reason that a Northeastern-style moderate Republican can’t work with the tea party movement. Scott Brown is most assuredly a Massachusetts Republican, but his landmark upset would not have been possible without conservative enthusiasm. He generated that enthusiasm by working with the base on their number one issue, namely opposition to Obamacare. This isn’t complicated. It’s how coalitional politics works.
The tea party movement may be a little rough around the edges, and in some case inclined to support candidates who aren’t always ideal. This isn’t a surprise: One would hardly expect an organic grassroots movement to be a fully mature political machine. But one would expect experienced politicians to attempt to accommodate such a movement. Partisans interested primarily in winning as many GOP seats as possible — the types whose heads Mike Murphy sees exploding — may wish that the tea partiers would grow up and work with moderate Republicans. But it is clearly the case that, if they wish to remain competitive, a lot of moderate Republicans need to grow up and work with the tea partiers.