Monday, April 14, 2014

Politics as Bloodsport

Mike McCabe at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign likes to decry the drawing of "safe" districts at both the Congressional and State levels as resulting in a lack of competitive races for those seats every year.  He believes that there are now "Republican" seats and "Democratic" seats that will likely never change hands in the next ten years.  But what that practice has also done is bring about ideological warfare--at least on the Republican side--here in 2014.

For the longest time, incumbents were immune from intra-party challenges for fear that it might weaken them for what could be a competitive general election.  It was far better to have an "R" in office--even if he or she wasn't 100% "ideologically pure"--than it was to risk losing that seat.  But now that districts are seen as more secure in terms of party preference, such fear of losing in November is vanishing--bringing with it far more in-fighting. 

And that absence of fear is what led us to Friday--as more than 80-years of political experience was swept out the door without a single vote being cast by the people served by Congressman Tom Petri and State Senator Mike Ellis.  In Petri's case, the Tea Party element of the GOP was promising a bruising primary campaign behind State Senator Glenn Grothman (even though he doesn't live in the 6th Congressional District)--and at 70+ years of age, it was a battle that the Congressman wasn't interested in fighting.  As for Senator Ellis, he has run afoul of the School Voucher/Anti-Common Core crowd--who sent in their hidden camera "reporters" to make him look as bad as possible.  We are "on watch" for State Senator Luther Olsen of Berlin to make a similar decision--as nearly all Republican groups in his district have voted to not support his re-election campaign this year.

In both cases the factions of the Republican Party have succeeded in setting up what they hope will be a "Real Conservative" vs a "Real Conservative" primary race--with the winner sure to triumph over a hapless Democrat in November.

But what if these groups have overplayed their hands?  What if the reason the 6th Congressional District and the 19th State Senate District have been Republican for so long is not because of the "R" on the ballot--but because of the candidates on the ballot?  Who is to say that Joe Sixpack who always had Congressman Petri and Senator Ellis to vote for isn't nearly as interested in voting for "that new guy"?  Is losing majority control of the State Senate and the House of Representatives worth the "ideological purity" that you have achieved within the party?

Based on the results we have seen on the national scale the last 10-years, the GOP is fast becoming the party of Pyrrhic victories--so I guess the immediate answer will be "yes".

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