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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Joe Miller and the Growing Wingnut Caucus

So Washington is abuzz today with curiosity about Joe Miller, the obscure and underfunded former judge who appears (subject to a possible reversal in absentee ballots) to have driven Lisa Murkowski out of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s primary in Alaska. Was his candidacy purely a vehicle for the vengeful manueverings of Sarah Palin, or just a bargain investment for the Tea Party Express (which spent over a half million dollars helping him with attacks on Murkowski)? Were the results the product of strange turnout patterns affected crucially by an anti-abortion ballot initiative?
Perhaps, but in any event, it’s worth taking a moment to assess Miller’s platform:

He wants to eliminate the Department of Education, believes the government shouldn’t pay for unemployment insurance and says of climate change on his campaign site that it “may not even exist.” Among the more mainstream GOP positions he’s taken: Miller would cut welfare; eliminate health care for the poor by scrapping Medicaid; and the Anchorage Daily News reported that he has has called for sweeping cuts to Medicare and Social Security with a goal of phasing them out entirely in favor of total privatization….
Miller is backed by the Family Research Council and opposes abortion even in the cases of rape and incest, a view far to the right of the mainstream of the GOP.

I dunno about this last assertion; I’d say absolute abortion bans are pretty much de rigour in Republican circles these days, judging by the enormous grief that Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel got for supporting rape-and-incest exceptions.
But in any event, I’d say the abolition of Medicaid and the total privatization of Medicare and Social Security qualify as positions that remain controversial in much of the GOP, though a lot less than was the case quite recently, when George W. Bush’s SocSec partial privatization proposal sent Republicans running for the hills.
At what point, though, do such positions stop be treated as outliers? When five Republican Senators espouse them? Ten? Twenty? How about four-out-of-five conservative commentators?
We certainly don’t know whether Joe Miller is going to be a United States Senator; he doesn’t have the Republican nomination fully in hand yet, and he could definitely lose in November, even in Alaska, particularly if Murkowski finds some way to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate and split the GOP vote. But it’s getting to the point where being a policy wingnut is not a very lonely occupation in today’s Republican Party, or any sort of bar to winning primaries.

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