The Delaware primary battle has now entered, it seems, that crazy stage of campaigning, when passions are so high and tempers are so short that wild accusations, paranoid rants, and enraged declamations have become the standard mode of discourse.
The Delaware Republican party files an FEC complaint against the O'Donnell camp. Christine O'Donnell suggests that Mike Castle and his GOP allies vandalized her house---in 2008. The internet buzzes with theories elevating the Castle-O'Donnell race to an archetypal clash, between the RINO establishment and pure conservatives.
It seems like it has been very beneficial to O'Donnell's campaign to cast O'Donnell as part of a revolutionary movement. This has allowed the campaign not to focus that much on the candidate and instead to harness the alienation of GOPers across the country. O'Donnell's website is short on policy proposals and long on Tea Partyish enthusiasm and differentiating herself from Castle (her "Why Christine?" page is a chart comparing herself to Castle). Since the beginning of the primary, she has run as the anti-Castle. Running as the anti-RINO (a slightly different intellectual move) has no doubt helped her draw the attention of the Tea Party Express.
Crowning Castle as a RINO par excellence has also led to some distortions. Anyone who even briefly scans some of the comment pages about the Castle-O'Donnell race will soon run into comments declaring that Castle is well to the left of many, if not most, Democrats and has a voting record like that of Barack Obama. You might be told by some talkers that Castle voted for Obamacare (when he actually voted against it), and some campaign advertising suggests that Castle wants to keep Obamacare (when he actually is a cosponsor of the legislation that would repeal Obamacare). The truth is that Castle is a moderate Republican, who has sometimes voted with the left but often with the right.
It probably worth noting that this isn't a final, apocalyptic battle between false Beltway insiders and true, Republican conservatives. (I tend to think that that notion of a supposed battle has a whiff of opportunism about it.) This is one primary race, which is not just about the clash of movements but about the personalities, principles, and policies of distinct individuals. Though some seem to believe that supporting Mike Castle makes you a charlatan who has surrendered any principles for the sake of power, it is also possible to find virtues in Mike Castle (of which electability is one). Likewise, backing Christine O'Donnell does not make you a wild-eyed fanatic. There are legitimate reasons for backing either candidate, as William A. Jacobson reminds us.
As this primary enters the (perhaps even more poisonous) final days, it is worth remembering the virtues of rhetorical moderation and intellectual charity, on and off the campaign trail.