There’s an interesting sub-drama playing out in the Nevada Senate race. (Update : Thanks to Jim Gibson for correcting the state) Kristi Keck at CNN.com reports on Sharron Angle’s efforts to tone down her message and persona to the point where she appears to have an actual chance of being taken seriously by a majority of voters. Here’s how it’s playing in the website campaign:
In Nevada, Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle last week unveiled a revamped website that no longer details some of her more controversial positions, such as her calls to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and support for a nuclear waste dump facility at Yucca Mountain.
The campaign of Angle’s November opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, posted a copy of Angle’s original site at www.therealsharronangle.com. Angle’s campaign sent a “cease and desist” letter to Reid’s campaign, saying that the website falsely represented itself as Angle’s website.
Reid’s campaign temporarily removed the site, but the Nevada Democratic Party reposted it, claiming First Amendment protection. Reid’s campaign said Angle was trying to mask her views, but Angle’s campaign insisted its Democratic opponent was “doing desperate things to win.”
Keck quotes Angle copping a plea on a conservative radio program: “Today, I actually softened because I’m being held accountable for every idle word.” Not being a career politician, she said she doesn’t always say the best words.
John Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America,” explains in Keck’s article: “When you are all of a sudden confronted with the possibility of real governance, then some of the red meat stops making practical sense…” TDS contributor Alan Abramowitz, author of “The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy,” adds “It’s when some Tea Party candidates or figures start engaging in Obama derangement syndrome that their message starts becoming political kryptonite.”
One of the most devastating takes on Angle’s campaign comes from GOP veteran insider Michael Gerson, who writes in his WaPo op-ed column this morning:
The Republican wave carries along a group that strikes a faux revolutionary pose. “Our Founding Fathers,” says Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, “they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
…Mainstream conservatives have been strangely disoriented by Tea Party excess, unable to distinguish the injudicious from the outrageous. Some rose to Angle’s defense or attacked her critics. Just to be clear: A Republican Senate candidate has identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence. This is disqualifying for public office. It lacks, of course, the seriousness of genuine sedition. It is the conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt — a fashion, a gesture, a toying with ideas the wearer only dimly comprehends. The rhetoric of “Second Amendment remedies” is a light-weight Lexington, a cut-rate Concord. It is so far from the moral weightiness of the Founders that it mocks their memory.
Gerson notes that, in her fondness for excess, Angle is not alone among the current crop of high-profile GOP candidates:
The Republican wave also carries along a group of libertarians, such as Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul. Since expressing a preference for property rights above civil rights protections — revisiting the segregated lunch counter — Paul has minimized his contact with the media. The source of this caution is instructive. The fear is not that Paul will make gaffes or mistakes but, rather, that he will further reveal his own political views. In America, the ideology of libertarianism is itself a scandal. It involves not only a retreat from Obamaism but a retreat from the most basic social commitments to the weak, the elderly and the disadvantaged, along with a withdrawal from American global commitments…. Libertarianism has a rigorous ideological coldness at its core. Voters are alienated when that core is exposed. And Paul is now neck and neck with his Democratic opponent in a race a Republican should easily win.
Gerson goes on to add that the GOP “wave carries along a group more interested in stigmatizing immigrants than winning their support” and he laments the response of too many Republicans who should know better “to stay quiet, make no sudden moves and hope they go away.” He adds
…Significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters… With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change. A party that is intimidated and silent in the face of its extremes is eventually defined by them.
For Dems, we can hope that enough swing voters will get it sooner than later, in time to tell the Republicans in November “Go sell crazy somewhere else. We’ve got serious problems here, and this is no time for tea party nonsense.”