Submitted for your approval: In this “Twilight Zone” election year, Democrats are thinking they might snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat.
They're right. It’s increasingly likely, and increasingly they can thank the jaws of the Tea Party.
Nationwide, and in state capitols, what was looking like a tremendous whuppin’ put on smug Ds doesn’t look so tremendous anymore for the Rs. Why?
Because as TPTs — Tea Party types — supply whatever energy the GOP has, not to mention increasing numbers of nominees and oil tankers full of radioactive rhetoric, voters in the middle will grow increasingly nauseated. It’s already happening.
“Victory" for Democrats,in this case, doesn’t mean gaining more seats in the Senate and House. That’s not going to happen. Victory means simply keeping operational majorities.
Considering the economy, and the rule of thumb about off-year elections, keeping control of both houses would be a huge achievement.
Right now the Tea Party is doing all it can to make that possible. Consider this from right-wing, venomously anti-immigration former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, a Tea Party rock star:
“The greatest threat to the United States today, the greatest threat to our liberty, the greatest threat to the Constitution of the United States, the greatest threat to our way of life, everything we believe in, the greatest threat to the country that was put together by the Founding Fathers is the guy that is in the White House today.”
Tancredo got a big ovation for this, appearing before a rally for Tea Party-blessed U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. Initially, Buck distanced himself from Tancredo’s statement. In two days, however, both Buck and his rival for the GOP nomination, Jane Norton, were parroting the line.
GOP candidates suddenly are doing whatever they can to appeal to the right fringe, and why not? They see who’s winning their primaries: People like Kentucky’s Rand (Don’t Want No Stinking Civil Rights Act) Paul and Sharron (Armed Insurrection Against the Government, Anyone?) Angle in Nevada.
A few months ago, battle-bruised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was highly vulnerable in Nevada. Then the GOP nominated Tea Party darling Angle and, presto, Reid's poll numbers started to climb.
In Republican candidates’ frantic efforts to outflank each other on the right and to appeal to Tea Party anti-government types, they are soon to be reminded that general elections are won at the margins — meaning, at the center.
Yeah, and who provides the new face of the GOP but Tea Party types putting Hitler’s mustache on Barack Obama. A socialist? A Nazi? Satan’s vessel? Of course, he is all of the above. Sell that to political centrists and independents.
Now, it’s possible that the Republican Party might find someone to represent itself in 2012 who appeals to that center and those independents. Right now, Sarah (The Refudiator) Palin is the face of the national party. Good luck selling her brand of competence.
Back in Colorado, Tom Tancredo — who once said we should bomb Mecca should Muslim-linked terrorists use a nuclear weapon — just announced he is running as a third-party candidate for governor.
Just about every analyst, except for Tancredo himself, believes that with his brand of extremism, he is unelectable statewide, and that his candidacy is a kiss of death for whoever becomes the state GOP nominee. Ah, that Tea Party energy.
As for the national picture, the ever-clinical (as opposed to cynical) David Broder pictures the calamitous presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater and the extremists — “kooks and cranks” — who came to personify Goldwater’s base of support.
Just keep talking, keep frothing, Tea Party. Hitlerize the president. Denounce the NAACP. Demonize immigrants. Turn off every black or brown voter from Portland to Providence, Duluth to Brownsville.
Oh, and put up candidates like Palin, Paul and Tancredo. In a tough political stretch, down-in-the-dumps progressives couldn’t ask for better pick-me-ups.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.