Three Cheers for DeLay!

Sam Rosenfeld's got a terrific rundown on the eternal frustration of the evangelical voter which argues, basically, that there will be no payback for the GOP footsoldiers, it doesn't poll well. He's right, of course. But I want to hone in on something he says midway through:

the atmosphere was suffused with a sense of anger and despair at the way the vast majority of Republicans they helped to put in power -- with the notable exception of a certain House majority leader locked in an existential bid to keep his career alive -- inevitably betray or ignore the religious conservative cause.

And that right there explains why Tom DeLay won't go quietly into the sweet night. The Bugman has been a pretty silent actor over the years, essentially unseen and unheard to those of us in C-SPAN land. That's because we were never his audience. DeLay's spent his time among the conservative base -- the fringe conservative base -- cultivating and schmoozing and fundraising for power. Because DeLay's position never came from natural popularity or a recognition of skill. No, it came from industry money and activist donations that Tom used to elect a fair portion of the Republican caucus.

But industry money is pragmatic cash, it stops flowing when the target enters the liability stage. DeLay is long past there and he can expect little help from his business buddies as his problems progress. But the base? They love DeLay, he's never let them down, never taken them for granted, never turned his eye towards anything but matching their wishes up with Republican success. They're not going to let him down precisely because everyone else has let them down. If they lose DeLay, their only all-weather friend, they've got nothing left.

All of which should make Democrats very happy. This is creating an excellent chance for a split between big business and the base. Tom DeLay, at this point, is like a smallpox carrier who refuses to leave the communal cave. And so long as he and his opponents, even if they're just rare independents like Chris Shays, are tussling over his ethics, it'll make every Republican who hasn't joined the denouncements look complicit. The bugman's poisonous, and the GOP's most important constituencies refuse to believe it...

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