Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Extreme Right-Wing Strategy Fails, At Least This Once

I think it is dangerous to put too much stock into these really off-year elections. There are so few that the national infortainment machine puts excess weight on each. The governorships in Virginia and New Jersey went from Democrat to Republican. Independents in those states that voted for Pres. Obama, and who, in exit polls, still supported the president, voted for the Republican governor. Not a great sign for Democrats, but really a small sample size.

The other race that, for me at least, was the most interesting was the special election in NY-23. In that race you started out with Democrat Bill Owens, Republican Dede Scozzafava, and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Scozzafava is a moderate, which conservative ideologues and purists did not appreciate, to the point that they drove her right out of the race. Palin, Bachmann, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, and the unholy trio of Beck-Limbaugh-Hannity all publicly supported the extreme conservative Hoffman over their party's moderate candidate. Scozzafava dropped out and urged her supporters to vote for the Democrat, Bill Owens.

Like I said, it is dangerous to put too much weight on single races like this, but this really felt like a war between the purity v. big-tent conservatives to see who would take control of the party. And the purity group won. They are pushing moderates out left and right. They are anointing extreme right-wingers to lead the party.

So what happened in that race, to the seat that has been solidly Republican since the Civil War? The Democrat won.

An ideologically pure, kick-out-the-extremists political party cannot be a national power, whether conservative or liberal. If the Republican party is intent on purging itself of moderates then it will continue to fail like it has for the past few years. I understand that some people in the party want to stick to their extreme-right agenda. They should be perfectly free to do so. But that does not mean they should alienate other moderate conservatives from their party. There is room for both. The Democrats are now the party that attracts moderate voices because they are a "big-tent" party. Just look at how much power the Blue Dogs have. There is no corresponding moderate bloc of Congresspeople among Republicans.

So we should not put too much emphasis on these few races, but that doesn't mean we can't learn something from them. And one thing we can learn is that pure ideology at the expense of more widespread appeal is a strategy for failure.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

If I may, I'd add that this applies especially in this day and age, where those who don't identify with any particular party form a sizable part of the electorate.