RIP, Republican Moderates

Photo by House Committee on Education and Labor, <a href="">via Flickr</a>.

Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of congressional veteran Mike Castle in Delaware’s Senate primary yesterday has the political class chattering. Among the many things, her win marks the defeat of the only Republican Senate candidate who was not a climate change denier.

Questioning the science of climate change is back in a big way with GOP candidates this fall. Castle was the only candidate who not only accepted that climate change is happening, but also endorsed action to stop it. His demise in the Senate primary also means that there will be one less moderate GOP voice in the House next year.

Castle was one of only eight Republicans to vote for the House climate and energy bill in June 2009. He joined Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John McHugh (N.Y.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Chris Smith (N.J), Leonard Lance (N.J), and Mark Kirk (Ill.) in voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Without their votes, the measure would have failed. But conservative activists lambasted them for their votes, casting them as “sell-outs” and “traitors.”

The backlash caused some of them to backtrack on support. Kirk, who is now running for Senate in Illinois, later said he would vote against the same measure as a senator. But Castle was unflinching in his support for action on climate change.

O’Donnell’s win may upend the chance for the GOP to take the Senate. But it also means one of the last voices of moderation in the party is now out of electoral politics. I have a piece up on the main site today about the prospects for leadership on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee should Republicans retake the House. With almost no moderate Republican voices like Castle’s left in the House these days, it becomes even more likely that the far right will be calling the shots in the 112th Congress.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.