If Dean Young wins the GOP runoff against Bradley Byrne tomorrow, he’ll thank the voters who turned out. And he should also thank the New York Times, NPR, Time, and other national outlets who have helped frame this election in national terms. Like this:
A Test of Business Efforts to Derail the TEA Party
Companies as diverse as Caterpillar and AT&T have also sent in a last-minute flurry of donations. The goal, backers of Mr. Byrne said, is to elect not just a Republican, but the right kind of pro-business one.
Dean Young, the Tea Party-backed businessman who is running against Mr. Byrne, seems only to be reveling in his opponent’s establishment, big-money support, repeatedly praising Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for leading the way to the government shutdown and saying that if he wins it will be in the face of “the entire Republican establishment.”
Alabama voters love to “stick it” to the outsiders, the establishment, and even themselves. As John Archibald wrote last week, “Alabama would rather fight than win.”
In this fight, the business wing of the party has lost its hold on the tiger’s tail and the beast has turned on it. While Byrne leads widely in fundraising, thanks to tens of thousands pouring in from large corporations all over the country, that advantage hands Young a golden opportunity to protray himself as the underdog, populist champion of the the regular people.
“If you want go-along, get-along, then vote for Bradley,” Young said. “We’ve had that in this district for 50 years. How’s that worked out?”
Byrne’s campaign style may not be helping him much with base voters either. Was this really the best comparison to make when you’re running in a low turnout special election?
“If you want John McCain you want Bradley Byrne. If you want Ted Cruz, you want Dean Young. And it’s that simple.”
Now, the last thing Byrne wants to do is get the base all worked up about John McCain (a man that most call a RINO – or worse), the New York Times, and additionally, the fact that his campain is trying to quietly reach out to Democrats. It’s a triple play of campaign incompetence, but they’re doing it anyway.
Still, Democrats should, under no circumstances, think about dabbling in the GOP runoff, no matter how tempting it may be.
There’s the understandable feeling among many progressives that it’s somehow our “duty” to save the state – and the GOP – from its worst instincts. How many deserted the 2010 Democratic primary in order to cast a vote against turncoat Parker Griffith in AL-05 or against Roy Moore for Chief Justice? How many did the same in 2006 when Moore faced Bob Riley for the gubernatorial nomination?
But when we do that – again, with an understandable wish to keep extremists out of office – we’re giving the GOP two big gifts:
- Turnout bragging rights: (PDF) In 1990, almost 750,000 people voted in the Democratic primary and 125,000 participated in the Republican primary. In the 1996 primary, the gap had narrowed considerably, with only 100,000 more people voting in the Democratic primary than in the Republican. By 2004, the gap had narrowed to just 8,000 more Democrats.
In 2010…. 318,000 votes were cast in the Democratic primary and 493,000 in the Republican. The 2012 primary numbers for the Democrats were so dismal I can’t bear to think about it. However, that was also due the lack of contested races at the state level.
- Helping elect the lesser of two evils. When Democrats get involved in GOP primaries to help defeat the most extremist candidates, the resulting general election candidate is far more palatable to independent voters and even Democratic voters.
In short, when you vote in the GOP primary against extremists like Dean Young, you help elect Republicans in the general election.
Look: I feel your pain. I have the geographic misfortune of being represented at the federal level by Mo Brooks and at the state level by Shadrack McGill. But I’ll still vote in the Democratic primary in 2014.
I’ve been beating this drum for years, I know, but I haven’t changed my mind:
It’s really impossible, IMO, to “vote strategically.” Instead, as a Democrat and progressive to liberal political person, you’re probably voting for the least crazy person on the ballot, you’re helping the Alabama GOP choose candidates that are most acceptable to the general electorate. The people who would be totally turned off by Roy Moore might not have as much of a problem with the other two. (Note: I personally wouldn’t vote for Graddick for anything – even if it meant having Shadrack McGill as governor)
And in doing so, you make it more difficult for the Democrat in the race in the general election to win because the Democrats voting in the GOP primary have “helped hide the crazy.”
Everybody’s vote is personal and their own business, but when you vote to make mischief you end up hurting the viability of the Democratic Party far more than you hurt the GOP.
Surprisingly, AL.com columnist John Archibald seems to agree. Speaking at the Downtown Democrats monthly meeting in Birmingham on Friday, he told the group that the Democrats’ best hope for regaining power is having people like Dean Young, Shadrack McGill, Mo Brooks, etc. in office.
Video is on the flip (putting it below the fold makes the page load more easily for people with slower connections).
And cheer up! You still get to play! There’s a Democratic candidate for the general election on December 17: Burton LeFlore. Learn more about him at his campaign Web site.