On June 2nd, Republican leaders in New York chose a candidate for Governor. The man they chose, a favorite among GOP elites, was Rick Lazio. Of course, in New York, as in other states, it is ultimately the voter, and not the elites, who make that final determination. Last night, the voters chose Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. In a similar — though much more publicized — Senatorial race in Delaware, TEA Party favorite O’Donnell upset NRSC favorite Mike Castle. And like Castle, Gubernatorial hopeful Lazio was left at the end of the polling wondering what, exactly, happened. Both men had been coronated, after all, by the GOP Leaders. Why, their supporters wondered, weren’t the voters willing to just follow the marching orders?
And it is exactly this attitude that handed wins to the likes of Paladino and O’Donnell. Moderate Republicans have ignored or denegrated TEA Party Conservatives as extremists — echoing familiar liberal talking points — while failing to realize the fundamental fact that most TEA partiers are just people who want to be left alone. Voting Republicans have always had an independent streak. It is, indeed, this streak that has made them identify with the GOP for so long. They have never liked being told what to do, be it by Government mandate or intra-party dictum.
Incumbent Republican legislators were warned time and again about the consequences of bowing to liberal causes. When Mike Castle voted for Cap and Trade as a Congressman, the outcry of his constituents was in no uncertain terms, that his days were numbered. They weren’t bluffing. They were warned before that, when they voted for the so-called stimulus package. They were warned when they voted for the unconstitutional penalty tax on large corporate bonuses.
They failed to listen.
They failed to act.
They stuck their fingers in their ears, denying the majority voices, and plugged their ears to the shouts of those sign-carrying “extremists.”
And they lost. Big.
Rick Lazio, a shoo-in for GOP Governor candidate made it clear early and often that the spot was his. That calls for a primary — a chance for the people to speak — were pointless. He refused to even acknowledge his primary opponant, let alone debate him and give the voters a chance to learn what he was about. He had bigger fish to fry. The Republican voters would fall in line and do as they were told, and he had a general campaign to plan. He, too, learned the hard way. You have to listen to the voters.
The shoo-in — the sure thing — was defeated with 62% of the vote. Lazio and the State GOP believed, right up to the end, that this election was in the bag. THAT is monumental failure to listen.
You can call it a mandate from the TEA party, if you wish. You can chalk it up to anger over the economy. But what the Paladino win — and O’Donnell’s — suggests to me is that voters are tired of being ignored. We’re tired of being ignored by the Obama administration and his rubber stamps in Congress. We’re tired of being ignored by an agenda-driven press. We’re tired of being ignored by our own party.
Republican voters will not heed marching orders from On High. But the National GOP had damned well better learn to heed ours.