Democrats and aligned Democratic groups right now are faced with one of those classic, difficult questions: should they go out of their way to screw someone over because it’s fun, even if there’s a chance it causes more damage down the road?
The issue is the brand new Republican senatorial primary in Texas. Longtime incumbent senator John Cornyn looked like he’d be able to glide through his primary next year without a glitch. Then, about 20 minutes before the filing deadline, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX, obviously) decided to challenge him.
Cornyn is a very conservative senator from a conservative state, and is sort of a dick. Stockman, meanwhile, is a completely insane Tea Party class clown, who sees Cornyn’s vote on one procedural measure as grounds enough to challenge him for insufficient devotion to the movement. Stockman’s early tactic, at least, is to repeat the absurd phrase “liberal John Cornyn” over and over, as he did in his hilarious debut fundraising letter to supporters:
If liberal John Cornyn loves being a senator he can move to Massachusetts.
Liberal John Cornyn claims to oppose Obamacare, but he votes to kill any effort to stop it because he agrees with the D.C. establishment and thinks it will buy him votes.
Every Republican who works to fund Obamacare kills freedom twice as quickly as when a Democrat does it.
I refuse to let liberal John Cornyn continue to betray Republicans and this constitutional Republic.
These next six years will determine whether our constitutional Republic lives or dies.
And so on.
For Democrats, having Cornyn in the Senate is bad, but Stockman would be worse. Cornyn is a reliably conservative vote on most everything, but he’s wise enough about tactics to not shut down the chamber over every pet issue he has, as Stockman almost surely would.
And yet the chance to fuck over Cornyn for pure fun is such a temptation for them! Because screw that guy, right? And that’s achieved by having Democrats say nice things about Cornyn that Stockman can then use as artillery.
The trolling has already begun. Here’s Stockman’s aide quoting, mischievously, a representative for a powerful teacher’s union, and that representative in return showing elation that his quote got picked up.
“We can move John Cornyn on an issue in a way we’d never be able to move Steve Stockman.” – AFT union official Kombiz Lavasany
— Donny Ferguson (@DonnyFerguson) December 10, 2013
— Kombiz Lavasany (@kombiz) December 10, 2013
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also couldn’t resist cynically embracing Cornyn:
.@woodruffbets Senator Reid has always felt that Senator Cornyn is someone he can work with on a range of issues.
— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) December 10, 2013
See? Everyone’s having a grand old time. Except for Democratic blogger Steve M., who demands maturity:
Obviously, Reid is trying to help the more extreme Republican to win, on the assumption that a primary winner who’s extreme will be a weaker general election candidate. But is there any reason to believe that that’s true in Texas? Texas isn’t a purplish state like Missouri (where Claire McCaskill’s primary-season advertising helped get her the extremist opponent she wanted, Todd Akin, in 2012), nor is it bluish-purple Nevada, where Reid himself attacked electable GOP favorite Sue Lowden in the 2010 primary season and got the extremist opponent he wanted, Sharron Angle.
In Texas, if Stockman wins the primary, he’ll win the general election — it’s that simple. I don’t care how crazy he seems. I don’t care how many infantile, trollish tweets he sends. I don’t care how many ridiculous things he says about UN gun-grabbers or giving firearms to fetuses. I don’t care if he makes regular appearances with Ted Nugent. All that will probably help him. He’ll still win the general election in Texas if he wins the primary. He’ll be like Rand Paul in Kentucky or Mike Lee in Utah (or, well, like Ted Cruz in Texas) — a sure winner just because he’s a Republican.
Harry, if you hurt Cornyn, we’re just likely to get a worse Texas senator than either Cornyn or Cornyn’s junior partner, the as yet unparalleled Ted Cruz. So really, Harry—don’t encourage Stockman.
What should Democrats do? Let’s go with the “gut.” My gut tells me, after describing this whole thing, that this post sounds a lot like a fifth grader telling his parents about what went down at recess. In other words, clownish systems gotta clown. Where do I volunteer for Stockman’s campaign?