Are their activists smarter than our activists? A reply to Mark Levin

Earlier this week, Mark Levin responded to one of my posts about the Delaware Senate primary. In that post, I noted that, in 2006, leftist activists supported less than reliably liberal Democratic candidates like Ben Nelson and were rewarded for their flexibility with the passage of Obamacare. I then argued that, by supporting Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate primary despite the likelihood (demonstrated by polls) that she would lose the general election, whereas her centrist opponent in the primary would likely win, certain Republican activists are being less astute than leftists like Markos Moulitsas were in 2006.
Levin’s response consists mostly of a series of misstatements about me and misrepresentations of what I argued. The misstatements undermine his ad hominem arguments. The use of straw men undermines his more substantive ones.
The misstatements begin in the first paragraph, where Levin erroneously says I once was a lawyer from Minnesota. They end, less trivially, in a brief update where he purports to explain my anti-O’Donnell position by claiming that Power Line supported Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey.
In fact, we have been Toomey supporters dating back to 2004 when I wrote a few days before the Republican primary:

My reason for favoring Toomey is [that] Specter is simply too liberal to support when there is a decent conservative alternative. . . The time to consider a pragmatic vote for Specter will be in November, if he survives his race with Toomey (he is still ahead, though Toomey is said to be gaining). Next Tuesday, the choice for mainstream Republicans should be obvious — Pat Toomey.

Toomey is a proven vote-getter. O’Donnell was routed when she ran for office in the past and currently is well behind the presumptive Democratic nominee in the polls. That, not some prejudice in favor of incumbents when they run against more conservative Republicans, explains my position in the Delaware primary.
In the same paragraph, Levin says we supported the nomination of Harriet Miers. I did at first, but changed my position after facts about her past positions came to light. So we can give Levin credit for a half truth on this one.
Levin doesn’t just misstate my prior positions; he fails throughout his post accurately to represent the argument he’s attacking. He writes:

Mirengoff starts from the proposition that long-time Republican officials deserve re-election. There may be occasions when a decent conservative can be supported over an establishment Republican. But those occasions are few and far between. And the conservative challenger must be as close to a sure thing in the general election as possible, otherwise it’s not worth the effort.

Not only do these statements not appear in my post, they are directly contrary to what I wrote. My argument expressly started from William Buckley’s proposition (which I called wise) that conservatives should support the most conservative (or least liberal) electable candidate. I then argued that although Tea Party activists have generally followed this approach in 2010, they are not following it in Delaware, where polls, coupled with the state’s recent electoral history and O’Donnell’s prior poor showings, provide strong evidence that the O’Donnell is unlikely to win in November.
Levin never engages these matters. Rather he avoids the issue by erroneously implying that my opposition to O’Donnell stems from the fact that she is not “close to a sure thing.” Neither was Toomey in 2004 (or even in 2010), but I supported him.
Levin also declines to address specific problems with O’Donnell as a candidate that have come to light. Unfortunately, the voters of Delaware will almost surely be less forgiving. This willingness to glide past O’Donnell’s various weaknesses is one reason to fear that the left was more astute in 2006 than some of our activists are this year.
Levin also claims that I’ve been “talking up” Mike Castle’s voting record. In fact, I have expressed my unhappiness with it, and have made clear that I would support a more conservative option if one appeared to have a decent chance of winning. Indeed, my posts about the Delaware primary didn’t take a position adverse to O’Donnell until polls began to show her trailing the Democrat by double digits.
I have noted that Castle votes conservative about half of the time. I based this claim on the fact that his ACU rating is 52 percent. Levin claims that Castle votes the wrong way most of the time, but is unable to cite any quantitative analysis (e.g., some other credible index) that supports this assertion. Instead, he simply lists votes Castle has made over the years that were not conservative. The less than analytical nature of this approach is another reason to fear that the left was more astute in 2006 than some of our activists are this year.
My favorite Levin error is his claim that Lindsey Graham is “my brand of Republican.” In fact, I’ve been a persistent and bitter critic of Graham (“the Arlen Specter of the South” as I call him) since the early days of our blog. Several years ago, with Graham’s bid for re-election in mind, I tried to promote an anti-Graham website in South Carolina. More recently, I expressed my hope that the Tea Party movement will target Graham in 2014.
My criticism of Graham has not gone unnoticed by his office. A year or two ago, I had a pointed exchange of emails with one of his top staff members. The tip of that iceberg is here.
Levin commits other errors as well, but let’s focus now on what he got right: (1) Levin doesn’t know me and (2) Scott Johnson is a “nice guy” and is smarter than I am.
JOHN adds: Mark Levin has done some great work for the conservative cause, so it is disheartening to see him playing so fast and loose with the facts. There is an unfortunate tendency among some on the right to adopt the view that no one is a *real* conservative except for them and a handful of their friends or followers. This sort of divisive, exclusionary attitude is a sure ticket to perpetual minority status, and should be avoided by all conservatives.

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