Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

What does NY-23 mean for the GOP?

Posted by sanityinjection on November 2, 2009

All the buzz in political circles today is about something called “NY-23”. That’s the abbreviation for the 23rd Congressional District of New York State. The reason for the hubbub is that the official GOP candidate in the race, Dede Scozzafava, has dropped out after conservatives surged to support third-party Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman – who doesn’t even live in the district. Hoffman is now likely to beat the Democrat candidate and win the seat, but some on both sides of the aisle are suggesting that this heralds the radicalization of the GOP and the end of moderates in the party.

As usual, the case is being overstated. First of all, Scozzafava had been handpicked by the local GOP county chairs and voters probably resented the echo of 19th century backroom politics. Second, Scozzafava wasn’t just a moderate Republican who could appeal to Democrats and independents. She was in the mold of Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Lincoln Chafee – far to the left of most Republicans in her district on both social *and* economic issues. In other words, in the GOP, you can be soft on abortion, or you can be soft on government spending, but you can’t be soft on both. Otherwise, why on earth are you a Republican at all?

If Hoffman’s coup really signalled the end of moderate influence in the GOP, that would be cause for concern. But as usual, the media and the political talking heads are reading too much into one event simply because it’s the only game in town. It was a far bigger coup in 1964 when Barry Goldwater captured the Republican nomination for President, and we were told that the moderate wing of the GOP was finished then too.  And certainly a conservative movement did spring from that, culminating in Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. But let’s not forget that Gerald Ford defeated Reagan for the nomination in 1976, and George Bush Sr. fended off a right-wing challenge from Pat Robertson in 1988. Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008 were not the most conservative candidates either. So spare me the funeral dirges for the moderate wing of the GOP just yet.

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2 Responses to “What does NY-23 mean for the GOP?”

  1. Update: Scozzafava has endorsed the Democrat candidate in the race, Bill Owens. Check out her glowing remarks about the person she was running against just a few days ago:

    http://watertowndailytimes.com/article/20091101/NEWS09/911019992

    OK, I get that she’s ticked off at Hoffman, but this serves to illustrate that there are two different definitions out there of the phrase “moderate Republican”. For most of us, a “moderate Republican” is someone who emphasizes fiscal discipline and low taxes as opposed to social conservativism. For the liberal media -and obviously for Scozzafava – a “moderate Republican” is a Democrat.

  2. Robert Tracinski underscores the point that it’s not about GOP conservatives vs. moderates – it’s about the core issue of the Republican party, big government vs. small government:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/11/03/gop_had_better_nominate_small-government_candidates_98994.html

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