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The Delaware Way: Facing the Anti-Republican Right

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The Republican Party of Delaware is in the midst of a war.

On one side are successful business leaders, socially conscious politicos, and concerned centrist conservatives. On the other are fringe activists whose collective ideology would find a welcome home in the John Birch Society, social authoritarians, and all-around angry people. The objective of this conflict is control of the GOP’s executive committee, with the former group’s bulk of support coming from the First State’s northern edge, which is the socioeconomic powerhouse of metro Wilmington, and the latter’s from the numerous rural precincts of down-home Sussex County at the opposite end of Delaware.

The Sussex clan claims that the Wilmingtonians, who have dominated virtually all of the committee’s leadership posts for several decades, are unresponsive to the more reactionary of their whims regarding social policy. The Wilmingtonians, meanwhile, respond by issuing a statement of fact; since Delaware is a state which trends Democratic, but is nonetheless fiercely supportive of its private sector, focusing on fiscal issues is the path to take in order to win elections. Despite seeing this approach prove to be smashingly successful  a little over a month ago with Republican Tom Kovach’s come-from-behind victory in the New Castle County Council presidential election, giving the local GOP its first substantial victory in decades, the hardliners remain adamant about having the party their way — or no way at all.

This resentment boiled over into a mid-February meeting of the Sussex County Republicans. When state chairman Tom Ross, who received a graphic death threat last year for his support of moderate congressman Mike Castle in his failed U.S. senatorial bid against not-quite-a-witch Christine O’Donnell, rose to speak, he faced a volley of questions from an irate, easily excitable audience. Responding to them in a good natured manner, he eventually lost his cool when one particularly aggravated woman demanded to know why Ross declared that O’Donnell was unfit to be elected dog catcher shortly before the date of the primary election. The answer he gave, “Because it’s true!”  was simple, accurate, and served as a sorely needed dose of reality, not only for his questioner, but for her fellow travelers as well.

As soon as Ross told it like was, a great deal of the audience left the meeting, shouting angrily as they did so. One particularly incensed lady began chanting of the Republican Party’s imminent demise, no doubt due to the strong injection of logic and reason her ilk had just received. A few observers clapped, proving that there is indeed still hope for we sane Republicans, who fear that our party is in grave danger of being taken over by an ultimately small, but resiliently vocal band of wingnuts. Putting this aside, Ross’s actions proved two things: the first being that the far right must be dealt with quickly and decisively in order to be prevented from attaining undue power, and the second that these people are not true Republicans whatsoever, despite often claiming to be. This can be easily deduced from watching the manner in which they quite literally packed up their marbles and rushed home as soon as an opinion, and a factual one at that, contrary to theirs was presented. These ideologues care not for the stability of the GOP and are clearly using it only as a vessel to promote their warped, highly unpopular ideas.

It is for the sake of the mainstream American center-right that they immediately be stopped from seriously influencing its political process more than they already have. During times such as these, we all should remember that, regardless of our personal differences, radicalism in government can, and undoubtedly will, unite us all in defeat.

This, needless to say, is a war which the good guys simply cannot lose, for the price would be far too high if they did.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • If the worst comes to the worst, Joseph, you and the other moderates could always quit and form your own party. But you’d have a hard job starting from scratch. Brand recognition is tough to fight against. Probably best to stay put and wait for the extremists to shoot themselves in the foot.

    An edifying parallel might be what happened to the British Labour Party in the 1980s and early 90s, which became dominated by the far left wing. A cadre of disgruntled centrists left and formed the Social Democratic Party, which did well early on in opinion polls but could never translate that into election success. The new party eventually merged with the Liberals.

    Meanwhile, Labour moved even further to the left, turning the majority of the naturally moderate British public off to them and rendering them unelectable. It took a few pastings at the hands of the Conservatives (although they still did far better than the Social Democrats) in successive election cycles to convince the party membership that the socialist maniacs at the helm were going to drive the party to extinction if they didn’t change direction. At the same time they could see that the Conservatives, drunk with power, were pissing people off by pursuing extreme policies of their own and were ripe for defeat if only there was a viable alternative.

    So more moderate leaders and policies came to the forefront and lo and behold, Labour won the 1997 election in a landslide.

    The price may be high, but it might be one you should think about paying – as an investment, while you wait for the pendulum to swing back.

  • Dr Dreadful,

    Perhaps you have the right idea about sitting out the ensuing madness. In the end, the radicals will most definitely bring about their own demise, in spectacular fashion no doubt, but it would be extremely difficult for me to simply stand by and do nothing while the political party with the most noble history of any major one in American history circles the proverbial drain. Besides, my family has a proud, longstanding Republican tradition; an example of this being my father working as a staffer on the late Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s first campaign for the governorship of New York during the 1950s. Needless to say, the threat of the GOP’s sane wing crumbling to dust is a deeply personal matter for me.

    Nonetheless, approaching this debacle from the standpoint of allowing the Republican Party to go through an almost certainly destructive cycle in order to ultimately save it is most definitely worth considering, painful as the mere thought of doing such a thing might be.

  • The problem is more complex than Joseph suggests. There are really two groups of radicals. You have the religious right dragging the party in one direction and fiscal conservatives and libertarians dragging it in another direction. The moderates are ultimately going to have to form an alliance with one of those two groups and change their ways. They will have to decide whether to keep their spendthrift ways and embrace social intolerance, or preserve moderate values and become more fiscally responsible.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Good article, Joseph, and quite true. It would be a disaster for all concerned if extremists took hold of either party.

  • Delaware Republican

    This is the first time in all of my years working for the Delaware Republican Party that I’ve seen a mob of election landslide losers not only try to take over the party, but try to purge anyone who disagrees with them out of the party. And they are trying to purge Republicans, I am one of them, even after decades of service.

  • Baronius

    This article and thread are very unspecific about the principles of any of the participants. What does the dangerous far-right nuttery consist of? Is there anything in Dave’s three-faction analysis that wasn’t in existence 20 or 30 years ago?

  • Probably not, Baronius, but was the particular faction that concerns Joseph as vocal and influential 20-30 years ago?

  • Baronius

    If he’s talking about the Moral Majority, then yes, even moreso. But I don’t know the particulars of the particular faction, because the article is all generalizations.

    While generalizations make historical comparisons easier, they make them less meaningful. Is Cotto a Rockefeller Republican complaining about Birchers? Is Dave a Goldwater Republican complaining about the Christian Coalition? I can’t tell. One thing I do know is that Rockefeller and Goldwater never won the presidency. Reagan did, by uniting the moderates and the proto-libertarians and the Christian conservatives. But I don’t know if that’s the right analogy, because no one will tell me what we’re talking about.

  • Reagan did, by uniting the moderates and the proto-libertarians and the Christian conservatives.

    And in doing so he made everyone feel that he represented their interests – even independents and Democrats. On a smaller scale, the same sort of thing seems to have happened in New Castle, if Joseph’s account is accurate.

    Whereas dogmatic insistence on a narrow sliver of policies which do not happen to be shared by the majority of the population at large is a great way of turning voters off and dumping your party into the political wilderness for an undefined amount of time.

  • Baronius

    That’s the question: are they narrowing or broadening? You’ve got to figure out if your gains from a new constituency (in voters, volunteers, and donors) offset any alienation among your current constituencies. Typically, your current constituencies grouse a little but they enjoy the better returns.

  • To Glenn in #4. TO LATE! They’ve got a grasp on both of ’em already!

  • Dave,

    I believe that your take on the opposing factions within the Republican Party is more or less accurate. If push came to shove, so to speak, I would much rather align myself with the libertarians. At least they, while holding abhorrent views on national security matters, are not out to promote horrid social authoritarian policies under the guise of mainstream conservatism.


    Glad to see that we agree on this.

    Delaware Republican,

    I am sorry to hear about the nonsense which you and other critically thinking Republicans are experiencing. I hope that you all manage to prevent any lunatics from assuming the state chairmanship at the state convention in a few months.


    When I said that Bircher clones, social authoritarians (Nearly all of which shamelessly mask their degenerate ideology behind something as sacred as religion), and all-around angry people are attempting to initiate a hostile takeover, they were the ones I had in mind as making up the lion’s share of the far right. I do not see how I could have possibly been more specific than that. To answer your second question, of course these groups existed a few decades ago. However, back then, they were safely relegated to the far-right fringe which very few paid even the slightest of attention to. Today, they actually stand a chance of attaining serious power. That, to me and millions of other fair minded Republicans, I am sure, is totally and completely unacceptable.

  • Cannonshop

    #12 then it might make sense to ask why they’re no longer on the fringe, Mr. Cotto, what is drawing them into the main-stream, and what can be done to stop it?

    I don’t remember who said it, but there’s a quote that goes something to the effect that the best way to deal with Treasons, is to eliminate the matter of them- the Fringe is gaining ground, and it isn’t because they have better spokesmen-it’s because more and more people who WERE in the middle, are getting less and less patient with the status quo.

    I posit to you that there is no single cause for this-it is a multitude of small things, irritations, if you will, things that ought to have been dealt with before, but have not, and continue to be undealt-with by the Main-Stream moderates in the party.

  • Baronius

    “Angry people and degenerates” isn’t substantially more specific, Joseph. Are you talking about abortion, gay marriage, strict constructionism, deficit reduction, health care reform, and/or other specifics? Or are you talking about style?

  • “Angry people and degenerates” isn’t substantially more specific, Joseph.

    Fair point. It does sound rather Gadaffi-ish.

  • Cannonshop,

    I doubt that a substantial number of people who previously considered themselves to be centrist conservatives have suddenly decided to join forces with the far right. What has happened, at least as far as I can tell, is that the fringe has become professionally mobilized within the last two or so years. Therefore, it is now able to communicate its message in a relatively articulate manner to a wider audience than ever before. This does not, however, mean that all, or even, most, of the audience agrees with its views.


    Now it appears that you are grasping at straws. I never referred to people who hold socially authoritarian views as being “degenerate”. I did, however, state that the notions which they hold of controlling the private lives of those whom they disagree with are so. Also, assuming that you are familiar with exactly what it is that the John Birch Society stands for, as well as the fact that such an organization is a magnet for angry people and social authoritarians, you have essentially answered your own question with regards to non-fiscal issues.

    Dr Dreadful,

    I could certainly see where you would be coming from if I referred to social authoritarians as “degenerates” on a personal level, but I was merely speaking of their ideology, as stated above.

  • Food for thought”, Mr. Cotto, especially considering your Republican sensibility. The problem of “the fringe” is bigger than you think.

  • Patty

    I don’t understand why people think being religious is fringe I am a republican and I think that they need to be conservative on social issues don’t back down that is what is wrong with the party they are afraid of what people are going to think about them stop being afraid do what is in your heart people are not going to like you no matter what you do.