Being Tom DeLay

BEING TOM DELAY….Should liberals be fighting to force Tom DeLay to step down as Majority Leader of the House? A friend of mine has been arguing for a while that we’d be better off keeping him around for symbolic reasons, a case that Jonathan Alter makes in the current issue of Newsweek:

On every issue ? ethics, the environment, guns, tax cuts, judges ? [DeLay] is a clarifying figure for anyone who might be confused about the true nature of today’s GOP.

So assuming he dodges indictment, DeLay should stay in his post for 18 months, until the 2006 midterm elections….His potential successors are all just as conservative as DeLay, but they seem colorless and would thus fuzz up the choice. The midterms should be a referendum on DeLay’s America. Stay on the right fringe or move toward the center? Let the people decide.

….If DeLay goes down, his shamelessness will go with him, which will make it harder to see the GOP’s true agenda….Let’s make 2006 a referendum on the right wing. For that, DeLay must stay.

Is there a downside to letting DeLay stay? Alter says no: the Republican majority isn’t going to let the Democrats get anything done no matter who’s in charge, and if keeping DeLay around distracts Republicans from accomplishing their goals, so much the better.

I have to say that the more I think about this, the more appealing I find it. The modern Republican party has always had to hide its radical agenda behind folks like Ronald Reagan and George Bush, appealing faces who strike most people as more moderate than they really are. But when voters outside of deep red states are faced with extremist Republicans who actually say what they mean, they shy away in horror. DeLay is that kind of Republican, and with the proper encouragement he could be an enormous millstone around the GOP’s neck for a good long time.

In practice, what does this mean? I guess it means that we should keep pricking away at DeLay but make no serious effort to get him to resign or step down ? all the while working to nationalize the 2006 election around the Bug Man. The goal would be to make Tom DeLay the national face of the Republican party by November 2006.

Who knows? It might work. It’s worth a thought, anyway.

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