Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Tea Parties – The Universal Excuse

In the wake of Dick Leinenkugel dropping out of the Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate primary race, editorials like this from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and this from my friend Emily Mills were so predictable, I actually predicted them.*  (Now I’m kicking myself for not doing so publicly – if only there were some kind of program where you could broadcast proclamations to hundreds of people at once, preferably using 140 characters or less.  Someone get on that.)

Now Dick Leinenkugel seems like a really nice guy.  His only problem was, he wasn’t a Republican.  Generally, that helps when running in a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

But the MJS and Mills both believe that it was the fault of the Tea Parties for running Leinenkugel out of the primary.  They cite the old tried and true talking point that somehow the Republican Party is getting too “extreme,” and not welcoming moderates.  Sayeth Mills:

Talk radio and the Tea Party elements of the party had all been hammering away at the fact that Leinenkugel had dared work as Commerce Secretary for a brief period under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. These days, the so-called Republican base seems to treat any and all bipartisanship (or even mixed employment) like touching a leper. “Leinenkugel also said ‘reasonable people’ understand why a conservative businessman would go to work for government, even with Democrats running it.” Trouble is the new Republican base isn’t big on reason.

Sure.  There’s to “reasonable” explanation as to why a guy who has spent his life supporting Democrats might be looked at skeptically by the Republican Party.

And I’m certain that if a Bush Administration official suddenly decided they were a Democrat and sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate at the last minute, Democrats would be perfectly fine with that.  If Condoleezza Rice moved to Wisconsin and ran in a Democratic primary, certainly she would be welcomed with open arms by liberals.  In fact, she’d not only be booed during intra-party debates, she’d have a lot of trouble leaving without being covered in tomatoes.

In fact, wasn’t it just the Democratic Party last week that purged Arlen Specter from its ranks?  Who do we blame for that?  ACORN?  Didn’t Dave Obey just single-handedly purge about five would-be Democrat successors to his seat from a primary?  Wasn’t it the Democrats that gave Joe Lieberman the boot a couple years ago for daring to support the war effort in Iraq?  I guess the Democrats in Connecticut were standing on “principle.”

Now, if Leinenkugel were the only guy running in the primary and the party didn’t give him a chance, it would be one thing.  But when tried-and-true Republicans have the opportunity to choose guys like Terrence Wall or Ron Johnson over a guy with zero GOP street cred, it only makes sense.  In fact, rather than proving Republican voters are sheep, it shows they’re actually tuned in and paying attention.

Dick Leinenkugel may have a future in the Wisconsin GOP yet.  He gained a lot of goodwill by recognizing his lack of credibility with primary voters and stepping aside. (Although my Democrat friends told me they secretly wished he was the guy running as a Democrat to replace Dave Obey in the 7th Congressional District right now.)  Of course, by then, editorial boards will have moved on to blaming the Tea Parties for oil spills, or the gout, or halitosis.

* In fairness, I predicted the editorial would come from the Capital Times, Madison’s steamiest online political chat room for singles.

1 Comment

  1. I agree. I never understood what Leinenkugel had going for him unless he created some kind of narrative (“I wanted to serve my state but gosh, those tax-and-spenders just drove me out of govt) for why he was on the Doyle team and then left.

    However, Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman are very poor comparisons to the Leinenkugel situation.

    Both of them were competitive in their party primaries. Leinenkugel received 0.5% at the convention, and the party chair sent a pretty clear signal he wasn’t welcome.

    Second, it’s disingenuous to compare one of the most prominent (and loyal) members of the Bush cabinet to a guy who was in Doyle’s administration for a little over a year and then resigned.

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