Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In Defense of Mike Castle

As the Delaware Republican primary campaign heats up, I thought I would put forward five claims in defense of Mike Castle:
Two out of three ain't bad. He supported the Bush tax cuts, he rejected time tables for withdrawals from Iraq, he opposed Obamacare, he opposed the stimulus, etc. etc. etc. Has he always stood with Republicans in the House? Certainly not. But has he stood with them on many important issues? You bet. Yes, he backed Cap and Trade, but how likely is that measure to pass, if it can't get out of the Senate now, at the high-water mark of Democratic strength? His Second Amendment record has been mixed, but the courts have weakened the ability of Congress to undercut the right to bear arms, and it doesn't seem like the gun issue is one Democrats want to take on right now. He has a lifetime American Conservative Union Score of 52; for this year, it's 56. Is that a hard-right score? No. But it's hardly a dyed-in-the-wool far-leftist score.

Experience has its benefits. Mike Castle has served in government for over forty years. He has great experience in legislative maneuvering, a virtue not to be discounted. If Republicans do regain control of Congress in 2010, they will need more than people who can spout talking points: they will need people who can skillfully craft and interpret legislation. Competence in management will be crucial for a renewal of Republican and conservative fortunes. The electoral failures of 2006 and 2008 were in part driven by the earlier political and policy failures of Republican legislators and administration officials. Legislative policy is a complex issue, and having elected officials who can navigate that complexity will be key for advancing conservative aims.

Diversity is a good thing. There are some people who wish for a Senate with 100 Jim DeMints. This writer is not one of them. No disrespect is intended here for the senator from South Carolina, who has been a strong force in the Republican caucus; I might merely suggest that any political coalition is enriched by a variety of perspectives. A radical search for purity in politics often leads to intellectual staleness. I might not agree with Castle on many issues, but his is still a voice worth having in the Republican chorus.

Moderation can be a virtue. Especially in the legislative realm, achieving success often depends upon reaching across the aisle. One of the things that made Obamacare so unusual was that, as a major reform, it was basically a monopartisan measure. Throughout US history, big reforms often require backing from both parties. Especially since the Republicans are a long way from 60 votes in the Senate, they will need Democratic support if they want to pass major legislation. Castle's position in the middle---with allies in both parties---could make him a helpful powerbroker in the Senate.

Electability matters. Castle's electability is often a subtext of defenses of him from the right side of the blogosphere. (I would guess that online defenders of him would become a much rarer breed if he rather than O'Donnell were lagging 10+ points behind the Democrat.) And there really is no doubt about his electability. He was very popular governor and has been a very popular member of the House. The only reason why analysts are tipping the race the way of Republicans is because of Mike Castle. Even many of O'Donnell's partisans have admitted that an O'Donnell victory in the primary might easily lead to a Republican loss in the general election.

No comments:

Post a Comment