GOP’s Civil War 2010 — a prelude to 2012

How bad can the civil war get? We may find out Tuesday in Delaware. Mike Castle should have walked to the GOP nomination — that is, until Sarah Palin and her merry Tea Party men decided to back Christine O’Donnell.

To put this into perspective, Castle was all but a lock to win: a moderate Republican who would have won if not for the fact that by Tea Party standards Castle is a Das Kapital-reading, want-to-take-your-guns-away-and-tax-you-to-the-nines liberal. It almost makes you laugh, as a Democrat, how the GOP is engaged in a never-ending, brutal civil war over ideological purity. From the Florida governor’s race to the Alaska Senate contest, from the Nevada Senate to the Utah Senate and from Colorado governor to now Delaware Senate, the Tea Party is on a warpath not against Democrats but Republicans. The question is, Where will it end? I have the answer. It won’t until 2012 (maybe).

The Tea Party that is now raging will cost the Republican Party at least two Senate seats, and maybe more House and governors’ seats, and has given the Democratic Party the nail with which to hammer in the key message to moderates and independents that this is one crazy, extreme right wing of the Republican Party that wants to grab power, having just begun its GOP bloodletting. If you thought the 2010 GOP civil war was fun to watch, wait and see what happens in 2011 and 2012. In fact, the true implications for the Republican Party will not be felt for months and months after the midterms, when the Tea Party/Sarah Palin/Dick Armey wing realize that their higher calling is to get a Tea Party president (scared yet?).

Days after the midterms, the Tea Party will paralyze Republican leaders fearful of being the next Tea Party victim. There is not a single Republican running in 2012 — for any office — who will not be thinking, “If I vote this way, the Tea Party will get me” — kind of the political version of the bogeyman for Republicans. Even with the congressional paralysis that will ensue, the Tea Party Republicans (by the way, is that an insult to Tea Partiers or not?) will not be satisfied. Nope, they have their sights on a much bigger prize — the White House, and President Obama’s defeat.

Now, here’s where it gets fun. You are going to see at least a half-dozen Tea Party candidates, from Sarah Palin to Newt Gingrich, you will have the Tea Party bandwagoners like Rick Santorum, and then you will have the establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney, who will suffer a death of a thousand cuts as they all run scared from the protests and ideological threats of their Tea Party opponents. No doubt candidates who would stand a better chance of winning, such as Mitch Daniels or John Thune, may decide to sit this internecine battle out completely. So, with every debate that will be televised and commented on ad nauseam by the cables news and blogs, the public will witness an ever-scarier vision of a Republican Party that hates — and I mean hates — moderates. They will witness candidates battling with Palin as to how far right they can get. All of this soap opera will develop and will frame Republicans as a party that is anathema to moderates and independents. Now, this is where it gets interesting.

If the establishment Republican Party gets its way, Mitt Romney is its nominee — a Massachusetts Republican. Now, does anyone really believe they will embrace a Romney? C’mon, “Massachusetts liberal” are fighting words for the Tea Party activists. So left with the choice of backing Romney or running as an Independent, what do you think a Sarah Palin or others of her ilk will do? Does anyone in the Republican Party believe that the very same people who are intent on bringing them down in state after state in the name of conservative purity are going to nod in approval at Mitt Romney’s candidacy? Not a chance.

Much like we are witnessing, the Tea Party leaders would rather lose the seat and prove some fruitless point than win. So here’s what to expect. Unless a Tea Party candidate wins the nomination, some Tea Party candidate will run as an Independent. They will run. They will win 10 (even 15) percent of the vote, and they will all but guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection.

As for 2010, if there is one way to win over swing voters, moderates and undecideds in these close districts and states, it’s to paint the Republicans with one broad Tea Party brush. Because the truth is unmistakable — the more you see of them, the more you thank yourself that there is a Democrat to vote for. And if anyone has any doubts — watch the results on election night and see how many Tea Party candidates win in swing states.

In the end, Democrats can take solace in the fact, in what will be a difficult election year — at least we’re up against Republicans. Just imagine if our opponents made sense and were unified. Now, that’s a scarier thought than the Tea Party.