by Chris Bowers, Mon Jan 22, 2007 at 09:41:49 AM EST
Now, I know what you are thinking. First, considering the near total dominance of the radical conservative wing of the Republican Party, it is even possible for a "moderate" Republican to defeat a conservative Republican incumbent in a primary anymore? I grant, at least at first, in most states it may very well be impossible. Hewll, Chafee barely beat Laffey in Rhode Island this year. However, in a handful of states, flexible election laws present openings that might offer moderate Republicans an important early foothold that would allow them to expand to other currently less favorable areas of the country. Specifically, if a state has both open primaries and election day voter registration, it might just be doable for a Republican moderate to defeat an incumbent Republican wingnut by using a broad alliance of moderate Republicans, independents, and even some Democrats. The five states that meet these criteria are Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. While this presents us with a limited target area, at the very least Bill Sali (ID-02) and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), pop up as extreme wingnuts who might be vulnerable to this strategy.
Second, you may ask, why would we even want moderate Republicans to win in these districts? That is a more difficult question to answer. A strategy such as this might violate a basic principle of the fifty-state strategy: Democrats can compete everywhere. Also, the presence of hard-core extremist might actually improve Democratic chances to win in the district. Further, why would we spend any money to help any kind of Republican, especially when we are outgunned in total resources? Good points, all.
However, one of the greatest advantages Republicans have recently held in elections has been very public, internal Democratic division. Over the past twenty years, the DLC-nexus has played a key role in making the rest of the Democratic Party look out of touch with "mainstream" America by repeatedly triangulating against the party's left wing and adopting Republican language and narratives. By the same token, a revitalized Republican moderate movement, aided by strong primary challenges against wingnuts in a couple of carefully selected districts, could help fuel the growing Republican division we have witnessed over the past few months. Eventually, this could create the same sort of problems for the Republican Party that the DLC-nexus has created for the Democratic Party. For once, Republicans would be the divided ones. Conservatism would be on the bad end of Daou's triangle, instead of progressivism. Over time, Republicans would appear to be the party obsessed with electability instead of principles, a problem that has long haunted, and continues to haunt, Democrats. Further, there is precedent for this sort of action. The Club for Growth entered Democratic primaries in 2006, when it supported Henry Ceullar over Ciro Rodriguez in the TX-28 primary last past March. We also repeatedly saw Republicans and other conservative interests give massive support to both Joe Lieberman and Al Wynn in their primary struggles. And that was just in 2006. Since conservatives have been willing to dump tens of millions into supporting conservative Democrats such as these who aid national, anti-Democratic and anti-progressive narratives, they clearly, they feel like it is a worthwhile investment. Progressives might be able to score a similar return on an even smaller investment in a shorter period of time.
It is an intriguing possibility, one that I think They Work For Us should consider, and probably will consider, as they expand. While I am not entirely sold on it, progressive meddling in Republican primaries could be quite beneficial. A strategy such as this would also beg, if not straight up answer, the question as to whether or not we are an ideologically focused movement. While that is an idea I have resisted in the past, as Democrats continue to make gains nationwide, it might be an important shift for us to take in the future. If we end up with something like 56 Senators, 245 Representatives and a Democratic President after the 2008 elections, but we still aren't seeing a progressive agenda passed into law, then it may very well be time to drop our current partisan tactics in favor of something more ideologically focused.