Some Thoughts on the Conventional Wisdom, Department of Psephological Prognostication

Talking with various friends these past weeks about the upcoming election, I was often put in mind of Matthew 13:42: ibi erit fletus et stridor dentium: There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The primaries yesterday provided a preview of what I had in mind. “Oh, those awful tea-party candidates! They’re ruining everything.”

Are they?

Exhibit A in the brief is Christine O’Donnell, the tea-party-endorsed candidate to who cleaned Michael Castle’s clock in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware. Castle, now 71, has been in politics since he was weaned — well, since 1966. Will he go out and get a real job now? Nobody knows. Early signs are that he is planning to take his marbles and march home in a huff. He certainly won’t be helping C. O’Donnell.

I say that Castle is a Republican. But he is not what you would call a conservative. Item: he supported the Obama administration’s  cap and tax (formerly know and “cap and trade”) legislation last year. This indeed seems to have been the catalyst for the spirit of opposition among conservatives. In due course, that opposition threw up Christine O’Donnell as a challenger, much to the consternation of the Republican establishment, which went from regarding her as an unsavory distraction to a dangerous interloper who, by refusing to play by the rules, was jeopardizing the whole Republican come-back strategy.

I admit to feeling conflicted about this. Many of those friends I mentioned are in the “fletus et stridor dentium” crowd on this issue. They’re smart folks, and God knows they're much savvier about politics than your humble correspondent. Why, even Karl Rove, than whom (in my book) no one is smarter about politics, concluded that, with O’Donnell’s victory, “this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.” Republican strategist Mike Murphy agreed: “I’m sad to say the Delaware primary results tonight are straight out of Harry Reid’s dream journal,” he said when O’Donnell’s victory was certain.

Among Republicans, anyway, it was Matthew 13:42 time, all over the place. For Michael Castle may have been a “moderate” (i.e., left-leaning) Republican, but at least he was one of us. He was also the Great White Hope in the Delaware Senate race.  He was the establishment-anointed candidate who (so the pundits told us) might actually beat Chris Coons, the presumptive Democratic candidate, thereby recapturing “Joe Biden’s seat” (as the proprietary formula inevitably puts it) and, just possibly, the Senate itself for the Republicans.

Now here we are about to be cast into the old tenebras exteriores (Matthew 8:12), all because of folks like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle, the tea-partier who had the temerity to run and win in the Republican Senate primary in Nevada (how do you spell “Harry Reid”?) — why don’t they wise up and play the game as it ought to be played?