Ann Wagner, who is running to replace Michael Steele as the Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), just finished a successful stint as Roy Blunt’s campaign manager. As Hotflash noted in a comment to a blog post here at SMP, she has the gift of sounding mild and rational while speaking for a party that is rushing to walk on the wild side. Certainly, under her leadership, the Blunt campaign negotiated the Tea Party shoals while never abandoning the GOP corporate crew whose interests Blunt seems to put first and foremost.
The upcoming campaign for the RNC Chair could pose a serious challenge to her skills, however. In this context, I was struck by a comment Slate‘s David Weigel made about the benefits of his attendance at a FreedomWorks-Republican Conservative Caucus forum for RNC chair candidates:
As a way of seeing just how successful the Tea Party’s capture of the GOP has been, it was very useful. And it was even better as a gauge of how smart Republicans have become at 1) figuring that out and 2) figuring out what Tea Partiers want to hear.
Wagner already seems to be trying her best to exercise tact. In response to claims at the forum that the GOP owes it’s Nov. 2 victories to the Tea Party, she cautiously observed that “we have to reflect the true, independent nature of these Tea Parties that are out there.” Bunkum, but important bunkum for someone who wants to keep the squalling baby placated while they throw out the foul bathwater.
I expect that Wagner’s performance will offer many such moments of rarefied amusement for those of us who appreciate a nuanced delivery. The GOP, after all, now has to cater to a chorus of crazies who, encouraged by the purposely vague Tea Party rhetoric, have crawled out of the woodwork where they have hidden since the late 1950s.
Just this week, Judson Phillips, president of the Tea Party Nation, declared that voting should be restricted to property owners only. I know that these delusional fools think they have a private line to the Founders, but it will be incumbent on the likes of Wagner to steer them gently when they get their 18th century lines this badly crossed – which she just may be able to do. She did after all, get many of the “we-the-people” contingent to toady for Roy Blunt in spite of the fact that he delivered some of his Tea Party friendly lines with all the conviction of a confirmed drunk at a prohibition rally.