In the past ten days, the Republican Party has allowed two of its most experienced and dedicated politicians to be shoved out of the nest by extremist, doctrinaire Tea Party candidates.
Charlie Crist, long-time state politician and current governor of Florida, deflected a strong challenge from a Tea Party opponent by declaring that he would continue his campaign for the U.S. Senate as an Independent. And yesterday, Bob Bennett, a third-term Senator from Utah with impeccable conservative credentials, lost the opportunity to run again in 2010 when his state’s Republican convention ousted him in favor of two ultraconservative and entirely inexperienced Tea Party candidates.
Apparently Crist’s fatal errors as far the lunatic fringe of his party is concerned were 1) treating the President hospitably when he visited the state in February and 2) expressing support for the federal stimulus package—a bill that greatly mitigated the effect of the recession in Florida and literally saved public education there.
There was a time when politicians were expected to be diplomats—cordial to allies and opponents alike—and to vote their conscience on matters of extreme urgency. Not any more—not in today’s GOP (General Opposition Party). According to today’s conservative armchair observers, many of whom keep their radios and TVs tuned to incessant right-wing propaganda, the only right attitude is a cynical one and the only right answer to any matter of public policy is a resounding “NO!”
They say Bob Bennett’s crime was voting in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)—the infamous Wall Street “bail out.” Indeed he did—along with 30 other reluctant Republican Senators and a good many reluctant Democrats. An unhappy President Bush signed the bill into law. Nobody wanted to bail out those bastards on Wall Street, but it had to be done—just as the European Union now has to hold its nose and bail out Greece. The economy of the country was threatening to implode into a black hole that could have taken the whole world with it; drastic measures were required.
So Bob Bennett appears to be a victim of his times—a true conservative who had the misfortune to be in Congress at a time when he had to make a correct but unpopular decision.
There’s been a lot of chatter on television lately about how conditions may be right, come November, for a great Republican revival. At the rate things are going, though, Democratic candidates might just as well wait as long as possible to step into the fray. Most of them are well advised at this point to save their advertizing dollars and stand by, while the opposition candidates bicker among themselves and pick each other off.