Remember when the “red scare” was the fear of Communism creeping across the globe, where right wing politicians warned us that a commie could be hiding behind any tree, on the street where you live? There’s a new red scare on the carefully media manicured political landscape, and again, it is coming from the extremists on the right, but this time, it is they who are the dyed hard reds.
They are the noisy clamor of Tea Party conservatives and professional Libertarians, feeling the fires in the furnace of their raison d’etre, smelling the sulfur of treason in the devilish deal they made with the Republican Party so they can have some real power.
One must only think back to 2008, when Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), in his first reelection to the upper chamber, after an ignoble campaign against war hero Max Cleland six years earlier, was forced into a runoff against his Democratic opponent in this reliably red state, because of the confluence of two events – he voted for TARP (aka, the bank bailout) and there was a Libertarian on the general election ballot.
In a way, Chambliss’ 2008 ordeal was a portent for what lay ahead for mainstream Republicans, if they did not toe the Libertarian/Norquist-ian drown-the-government-in-a-bathtub line. From the ego-maniacal radicals sent to Congress in 2010, to the plethora of anti-tax, anti-spending, crusading clowns who paraded through the GOP primary season this election year, the message to the more conservative of this country’s two major parties has been made clear. Hold uncompromisingly to our vision of America, or you will be challenged in your next primary election. It’s even led to a new word in the political lexicon: primaried, as in, “If he votes for a tax increase, he risks being primaried.”
The warning has been given. The gauntlet has been thrown. Don’t fuck with the far right.
Chambliss’ well publicized statement, last week, about not feeling beholden to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge during the current debate on the so-called fiscal cliff, has the incumbent Senator turning the heads in his party’s conservative base faster than a dog hearing a whistle. The barks from the right have been so loud, that he has issued a reassuring statement to critics in his constituency.
“I am not in favor of raising taxes,” the statement says, reassuringly. “Raising taxes to pay for reckless overspending is bad policy, and I have never, nor will I ever, advance the idea that raising tax rates is an acceptable option for dealing with our deficit spending.” Yet by agreeing that “our nation is still burdened with a $16 trillion debt that must not be left to simply grow and fester,” and asserting that “everything must be on the table,” he has started the murmurings of a challenge from more conservative elements of his party.
“Everyone knows that Saxby meant he was happy to raise taxes,” asserted conservative blogger and RedState.com founder Eric Erickson in a post, Tuesday. And, he threatened, “Georgia has primary run-offs, which means he can be taken out.”
Among the names being bandied about to primary Sen. Chambliss, perhaps the most famous is former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who went from a failed gubernatorial run in 2010 to the heart of the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Political Insider, Jim Galloway, one of Handel’s former aides “confirmed that she was giving the contest some thought.”
Galloway also reports that two of Georgia’s GOP firebrands in Congress, former chair of the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Paul (global-warming-and-evolution-are-lies-straight-from-the-pit-of-hell) Broun, “have not ruled out the possibility.”
Even Erickson is contemplating a run. “Whether or not I’ll do it, I will pray about it and consult my wife and others,” he told his radio show audience, Tuesday evening. That flurry of flirtation with a candidacy coincided with a couple of Tweets from the conservative commentator, who, in his television appearances, might strike some as a moderate Republican. Not so much. “If I were a senator,” he tweeted, “I’d object to every UC [Unanimous Consent], until Obamacare was repealed. Shut down the Senate lest they shut down America.”
[Update: In his blog, Friday, Erickson wrote that he will not challenge Chambliss because he doesn’t want to put his family through a campaign. He also added, with the egotistical bravado he is known for, “I’m not putting my family through that when the best outcome would mean a sizable pay cut in pay and being away from my kids and wife all the time huddled in a pit vipers often surrounded by too many who viewed me as a useful instrument to their own advancement.”]
And in case you’re wondering if Georgia has its own Todd Akin-like candidate, that would be Broun, who, despite his extreme ideas, ran unchallenged for his House seat, this year. Such is the case with Georgia Democrats, which in a state totally controlled by Republicans, is, at best, a plucky opposition, and a blunted foil for the secessionists, birthers and religious zealots who run the government.