It’s amazing how one gaffe can wound a candidate, especially one that had already been benefiting from a rather shaky coalition. I wrote yesterday about Chad Causey’s dissing of the President. That one little slip of the tongue hurt Causey big with a portion of the base, and I’m curious to see what he’s going to do now.
The Causey coalition has always seemed to me to be an odd and shaky assortment. It started off with a lot of younger voters taking interest in a fresh face. He gained a lot of Berry’s old supporters. Then, in the runoff, more progressive and moderate voters and even some conservatives for whom Tim Wooldridge was just too much to take flocked to Chad. But Causey, despite his personal likability, never worked to glue that coalition firmly together. He was always running to the right on almost every issue, with just a few bright spots on his issues page like his support for clean energy and for social security. He’s avoided tough issues to this point-anyone know where he stands on the issue of choice? How about ENDA? That was such an important issue in the primary but he couldn’t give me a straight answer.
It isn’t unfair to say that Chad has gotten where he is largely because of his connection to Marion Berry. That’s not exactly a secret. The way in which he went about securing the nomination left a bad taste in a lot of folks mouths. There are folks who still grumble about Berry’s timing, suspecting that it was timed to benefit Chad. There are others who are still wanting to know just how he secured the big union endorsements despite his opposition to their issues, from health care reform to EFCA. This one little slip up has opened those wounds in a big way, and there are a lot of people I talk to on a regular basis that feel like their worst fears about Chad have been confirmed. What does the Bible say? Oh what trouble a little fire kindleth?
The old way of doing things, the way Marion Berry maintained his base, the way Lincoln always shored up her statewide support, the way Mike Ross positions himself-that system is dead. It was dead the day that Tim Wooldridge and Robbie Wills lost their nominations, the day L.J. Bryant and Pat O’Brien destroyed Davenport and Wilcox, and the day we came within a few thousand votes of knocking out an entrenched incumbent U.S. Senator in the primary. From here on out, progressives are only going to become a stronger force in the party and, before long, in state politics. As the anti-Wooldridge and the anti-Crawford, Causey has benefited from that emerging dynamic, despite his conservative positions. Now though he risks depressing his base or worse, pissing us off royally to the point that some of progressives proceed to take their frustration out on him now or down the line. It’s a mess of his own making, and he can’t rely on Berry’s help to get him out of it.
So what’s he got to do to pull himself out of this? That’s not for me to say. I want to see how he handles it on his own. I want to know, once and for all, who the real Chad Causey is and what he’s really made of. Is he going to take us for granted, or is he going to show us respect? Is he just another Marion Berry or another Mike Ross as many of us have always feared? Or is there hope for him? It’s a simple choice-become an anachronism or embrace the future. His call.
That’s not to say that this is the end of the line for Chad. I still think he is clearly the better choice than Crawford, though he needs to remind the district why that is. But this is about accountability and so far, Chad’s gotten off easy. He’s got to address this now, and how he does it will determine whether his already shaky coalition hangs together or falls apart.