Delaware’s Politics of Building (and Burning) Bridges
The building of bridges does not necessarily bring two sides together. Case in point: the state’s 2013 legislative session.
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Consensus politics so suited the state, it seemed like it should last forever, but nothing does. When it blew apart, did it ever, gone with a whirlwind of tweets and blogs, cable news and talk radio.
If there was any Delawarean whose political life encapsulated what happened, it was probably Mike Castle, who set the Republican record for statewide wins as a nine-term congressman, two-term governor and one-term lieutenant governor.
Castle was a confirmed centrist during the days when the state was a masterpiece of bipartisan harmony.
The 1984 election that made Castle the governor was a milestone. The voters went the next seven elections without chucking out a statewide incumbent, Democrat or Republican, and in their most emphatic show of political balance, they kept sending a homegrown bipartisan odd couple to the Senate with Bill Roth as the sturdy Republican and Joe Biden as the styling Democrat.
How antique it seems now to recall what occurred not much more than 20 years ago in 1992. Castle was finishing up his second term as governor and could not run for another one. Tom Carper was the Democratic congressman. They simply swapped offices.
Naturally the voters were in on it, too. This was consensus politics of the highest order.
As Castle figured prominently in the heyday, he was also the most famous casualty when it all came crashing down. No doubt people remember the circumstances.
Christine O’Donnell should not have been a force in Delaware politics. She had a thin resume for running for the Senate, she said silly things about dabbling in witchcraft, and she resorted to un-Delawarean ridicule during the Republican primary by calling Castle a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and taunting him to “get his man-pants on.”
But it was 2010. The state that had lost its island-like existence to the bridges 60 years earlier was now being subjected to a new invasive influence from the Internet and smash-mouth broadcasting outlets.
People were getting their news where they wanted, not just from instate, and Castle was being mauled by outside commentators. With a friendly tweet from Sarah Palin to rally the Tea Party for O’Donnell, it meant Castle was history.