Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Confuse the Meaning of Hoffman

Doug Hoffman's ascent to the only Republican/Conservative in the NY-23 Special Congressional election, and Dede Scozzafava's fall, is an incredible victory for genuine Republicans, and especially for conservatives who believe in limited and honest government. Scozzo had three major policy choices that should have prohibited her from gaining the GOP nomination: 1. She supports card-check, 2. She's pro-choice, and 3. She's stated that she would have/does support the stimulus.

Support for only one of these things may not have made her a terrible Republican candidate. If there was one, it was support of card check. If that ever comes to a Congressional vote, Republicans have to be a solid "No!". Supporting the stimulus, combined with being pro-choice, might be a prohibitive combination. It definitely makes her suspicious, and a very liberal Republican. It also likely made voters wonder if she would support Obama's healthcare reform. In the end, her support of all three absolutely prohibited Republican support for her. Supporting all three made her a liberal, not a liberal Republican.

Across conserative blogs, the significance of Hoffman's rise has been debated (see here, here, and here). In the national media, the three things liberal reporters have taken away from the proper function of democracy are:

1. The Republican party is fighting a losing battle with itself, consisting of mainstream Republicans vs. conservatives (even though 40% of the country identify as conservative). Liberal newspeople see conservatism as a dying breed. Therefore, the conservative Republicans are eating the party alive.

2. Extremists (which means 40% of the country that identifies as conservative) are going to be encouraged to primary incumbent Republicans, and to run on third party tickets in order to do an end-around on not-conservative enough Republicans. Again, the wishful thinking leads to Republicans eating themselves alive by splitting the vote and losing elections.

3. The purge of moderate Republicans will lead to the GOP further isolating itself from independents and moderate Democrats that are needed to win most state-wide and national elections.

These are conclusions that are illogically extreme, practically impossible, and/or partisan wishful thinking.

Republicans have nothing to worry about from losing a liberal as their candidate. This is not a RINO situation, but rather a circumstance where a liberal opportunist worked GOP county chairpeople to seize the nomination. She served in the NY Assembly for over 20 years, but that shouldn't be regarded as a positive. The NY Senate and the Assembly are dysfunctional organizations, where plenty of corruption thrives.

In a perfectly legitimate move, Doug Hoffman sought and received the Conservative Party nomination. He didn't appear to have original ideas, and isn't fantastically telegenic, but supports the right national policies and backs them up with the right knowledge. Gradually, with the aid of national attention and endorsement from blogs and prominent Republicans, he edged away at Scozzafava's base, and eventually pulled the race into a three-way contest.

Again, conservatives have much to rejoice for from this. They cannot afford to lose voices or votes in the House if card check legislation comes to a vote. Although the impact of a moderate House Republican waffling is not the same as Arlen Specter waffling, it does the party no good to have to handle a member defying ranks on a huge issue. The district is more than moderately conservative and, since both parties will only tolerate so many moderate Congressional members, it is senseless to waste a conservative district on a moderate-liberal vote.

However, while the national attention on the race is deserved, the national implications for GOP elections are limited. This was a solidly conservative district. 1) Most conservative districts will nominate a conservative Republican in the first place. 2) Only solidly conservative districts can sustain and support a third party conservative challenger. Also, it was a special election, and there will be another election next year. The negative consequences, while unfortunately giving Obama another vote in the Congress, were limited. There is already a huge Democrat majority in the House, and if the winner's vote went with Democrat often enough to make them a problem, they would be out in 2010. This was a perfect storm for conservatives and a unique set of circumstances, particularly in relation to the Northeast.

The race has little or no implications when it comes to other races or to incumbent moderate Republicans. It has little relation to Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist in Florida, where a conservative (Rubio) is going against a moderate (Crist) in a primary for an open seat. Conservatives should not fool themselves into thinking going all-out to defeating Crist is worthwhile. Rubio would be the better Republican, but he's not the general election lock that Crist is.

It has no relation to Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins in Maine. Snow (47.88 lifetime ACU rating) and Collins (49.55) aren't the most conservative senators, but Jim DeMint (98.40) isn't going to win in Maine. They are established Republicans in a liberal state that last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988. Neither Snowe or Collins needs extravagant financial help from the national GOP that would hurt less established candidates in swing districts.

There's no great Schism within the Republican party. They pushed out a liberal from using their nomination to gain a seat for herself and other liberals. There is a need for reform at the organizational level. There is not a need for a purge of the organization, just real leadership. Redstate's Erick Erickson has a knack for using the most inflammatory language possible when describing issues internal to the Republican party. Too often that is turned against the party, as Frank Rich did with his Monday (Nov. 2) editorial in the NYT.

(Even though he says in that post that he only means the GOP leadership must be purged, too often he has spurred readers to oppose decently conservative, and ultimately winnable, Republican candidates - Crist, Kay Bailey Hutchison. The GOP does not need reactionaries like Erickson, they need conservative visionaries at the national and state levels to read local and state-wide elections better.).

There are implications for the national GOP and NYGOP: make better choices. There are only 435 Congressional districts. It shouldn't be hard to have an accurate read on the tendencies and preferences of voters in each district. The national GOP has the resources to gather that information, and has the resources to put an information sharing structure in place with the state and local GOP organizations. It could be accomplished by the national GOP hiring 55 people, conducting regular polls (they could even be online, anything) to get a read on tendencies and shifts in each district, and then starting an Access database to share the information with local GOP groups. It's not hard. Get a grip on what the constituents want, and provide the most conservative candidate who can give it to them. That may be Hoffman, that may be Snowe, or it may be DeMint. It's definitely not Scozzafava.

The real national electoral implications are in VA and NJ. In VA, Bob McDonnell crushed Creigh Deeds tonight. It showed that the Republican party has nothing to fear (especially in a historically conservative state) by putting forward a solidly conservative candidate. Conservative fiscal policy is the antidote to the country's current economic ills. Christie is a bit different of a candidate than McDonnell, but both are fiscally conservative people. It will be huge (but not an ultimate disappointment - it's huge enough that NJ is in play when the Democrat incumbent was previously a two term senator and outspent the Republican 3-1) if conservative ideas win tonight.

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