Home | Opinion | Markos Moulitsas

Markos Moulitsas: Will history repeat itself?

Greg Nash

Last week saw Alaska Republicans actively working to ensure Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s reelection this November.

The Alaska oil industry, which is spending enormous sums to combat an initiative that would raise its taxes, was unhappy to see other initiatives — to hike the minimum wage, protect Bristol Bay salmon hatcheries and legalize marijuana — also make the August primary ballot. After all, if you give liberals reason to turn out and vote for cool stuff like pot and a higher minimum wage, they might also vote for higher oil industry taxes.

ADVERTISEMENT
Luckily for them, because the Alaska Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the petroleum industry, its puppets in the state Legislature effectively bottled up scheduling of the “pot, pebble and pay” initiatives long enough to push them onto the November ballot. In so doing, the GOP helped Democrats give young voters, environmentalists and the working poor in the state a reason to actually show up on Election Day — exactly what a party needs to increase base turnout needed.

If the last several years have shown us anything, it’s that Republicans are their own worst enemies.

The Tea Party has been most helpful, costing Republicans at least six seats in 2010. In September of that year, then-Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) was defeating Democrat Chris Coons by 20 points in most polls. Luckily for Democrats, Tea Party primary voters opted instead for extremist Christine O’Donnell, whom Coons easily dispatched 57 percent to 40 percent.

In Colorado, early polling showed establishment favorite Jane Norton, formerly state lieutenant governor, running best against appointed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Yet Tea Party activists rallied around Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who bucked the GOP wave by losing to Bennet in this purple state. Wrestling mogul Linda McMahon rode Tea Party energy to a Republican primary victory in Connecticut over moderate former Rep. Rob Simmons, effectively dooming her party’s chances.

Spending tens of millions didn’t change the equation, nor did returning for a 2012 encore.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should’ve been swept away during the 2010 wave. Spring polling from Mason-Dixon had former Nevada Republican Chairwoman Sue Lowden beating Reid 46 percent to 38 percent. Luckily for him, Nevada Tea Partyers rallied around Sharron Angle, whom he handily dispatched in November.

Tea Partyers continued their streak in 2012, gifting Indiana Democrats with Richard Mourdock and a surprising pickup. Don’t blame the Tea Party for Todd Akin, though. His disastrous bid in Missouri came courtesy of evangelical voters who drove his primary victory against safer establishment options. But the end result was the same, helping embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill hold on to a seat that should’ve gone red. Indeed, CEO John Brunner was leading McCaskill 52 percent to 41 percent as late as July 2012, but he wasn’t crazy enough for the GOP base.

So we should never underestimate the GOP’s ability to undermine its own chances. The party has already sabotaged its Alaska chances in an effort to satisfy the petroleum industry. The contested Republican primary in Georgia is shaping up to be a battle of extremists and is bound to deliver Akin-like material to Democrats. The GOP’s presumptive nominee in Colorado is already tying himself up in contortions over the radical anti-abortion notion of “personhood.” Incumbents like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been forced further right to stave off Tea Party primary challenges.

The GOP already blew the Senate majority in 2010 and a favorable map in 2012 because of its internal crazy. 2014 promises to deliver much of the same.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.