Reale Simple

The world is more than what they tell you. Listen up. It's not complex. It's Reale Simple.

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Former USCHO writer, former writer at a Midwestern broadsheet, occassional CHN blogger.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Who Lost NY-23?

There's no doubt I'm disappointed this morning. It's rough to head into the count with cautious optimism only to come out on the losing end no matter what the circumstances here.

New York's North Country will be represented by a Democrat for the first time in several generations for at least the next 14 months. When something of that kind of historical magnitude comes down, finger pointing is completely inevitable. So before people start pointing fingers in the wrong directions, allow me, a local resident who has been watching the special election since the day President Obama nominated John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army, to guide you in the right direction.

Those to blame for last night's Democrat victory, in order starting with the most culpable and going down:

1) NY-23's GOP Chairpersons. Don't start at the end. Start at the beginning. There were six other candidates for the Republican nomination besides Dede Scozzafava, including Doug Hoffman and Matt Doheny. Scozzafava happened to be the only elected official in the field. The chairs learned the wrong lesson from the 2008 election and didn't learn the obvious lesson from the NY-20 special earlier in the year. They thought NY-23 was trending Democrat due to Barack Obama's victory in the district and decided to go with a non-conservative holding the top position of power among the potential candidates.

The #1 culprit here is Clinton County chair Janet Duprey, who, like Scozzafava, happens to be an Assemblywoman. The two women are close friends, and by all accounts Duprey was the driving force behind the appointment of Scozzafava as the nominee.

2) The RNC and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). After Duprey and the local chairs made the big mistake, the national chairs expounded upon that mistake and made it worse and worse, even as local conservatives and Republicans virtually shrieked at them that they were backing a bad candidate. They poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race on her behalf, including some ads which attacked Doug Hoffman, who more and more became the choice of Republicans during the course of the election, even before Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson became involved. By the time all was said and done, the GOP spent over $1 million building up Dede Scozzafava into a player in this race despite the fact that her poll numbers peaked at the very beginning of the race, before her record became widely known.

3) Dede Scozzafava. I'm not going to sit here and attack her for making the decision to run for higher office. I'm not even going to attack her here for her liberal record - she's entitled to her views on governance. What IS indefensible, after receiving so much money from the national GOP and being unable to rescue her own campaign from the growing popularity of the conservative candidate, she decided to take her ball and go home, and THEN endorsed the Democrat - the very person the GOP spent all that money on her in order to defeat. The most cursory glance at the final results shows that this endorsement was likely the difference in the race: an endorsement borne out of spite for Doug Hoffman for stealing away the conservative base that she took for granted, and out of spite for her own party, which eventually - with considerable prodding - saw the writing on the wall and stopped supporting her.

Solutions?

1) Dump Dede. The Republican Party CAN be a big tent, but a big tent has to have strong center poles to hold it up. Those center poles represent the party's core values, and if parts of the big tent stray too far from those poles, they undermine the strength of the tent. Such is the case with Dede Scozzafava. So many of her political stances run completely counter to the core values of the GOP. It's not a problem if one or two stances are moderate or liberal. That's why you have a big tent, for people and candidates like that. But after a while, it starts to become a matter of principle. If the party is going to stand up for an outright liberal candidate simply in order to win elections, where is the principle, and what is a party without principle?

The final straw is her endorsement of Owens, which more than likely swung the election in the end. How can she be allowed to ruin the Republicans' chances of retaining a congressional seat by espousing values counter to that of the party, running a horrible campaign (including several unforced errors on her part), wasting the party's money, and then turn around and endorse the Democrat to secure the election for him and still call herself a Republican? Even if she wants to, why would the party allow it?

The counter-argument is going to be that removing Scozzafava from the GOP caucus in Albany will leave the Assembly with only 39 Republicans. My response: so? She votes with the Democrats a large chunk of the time anyway, and it's not like the Republicans are anywhere close to having any sort of power in that legislative body anyway, nor will they likely have control in the near future. Losing a liberal is no loss here.

2) 2010 primaries for Scozzafava and Duprey. Barring the above scenario, the conservative movement must continue its diligence. These two women, by and large, are directly responsible at both the beginning and the end of the election for its result. Although neither are conservatives, Duprey could at least fit into the "big tent" as a moderate, but her actions have done serious damage to the party's reputation in the North Country just as much as Scozzafava's. There should be repercussions to such action. It would be nice to see some serious fiscal conservatives challenge them for their Assembly seats next year.

3) Hoffmania rolls on. There can be little doubt that if it wasn't for the Dede Scozzafava sideshow, the Republicans would have held onto this seat if Doug Hoffman, Matt Doheny, or another fiscal conservative had been the party's nominee. If Scozzafava hadn't been in this race for six weeks, her endorsement of Owens wouldn't have had anywhere near the effect that it ended up having, Hoffman would not have been operating from the disadvantageous position of a third-party, and would have had logistical and financial support from the GOP from the get-go... which is what conservatives in NY-23 were saying all along. This seat is up for election again in 12 months. We know what we did wrong. Now it's time to get it right, and now with the PEOPLE back in control of the first step - nomination - we will get it right.

The mainstream media, the bigwigs at the NRCC afraid to face their own faults, and the party hacks will point to the conservatives as the reason this race was lost. And to the extent they're right, we should be glad they're right. The answer has to be crystal clear for them to understand - we'd rather lose with our principles than support someone who has no respect for those principles whatsoever.

The consolation prize for conservatives? It was said time and time again that Scozzafava was to the left of Owens. We ended up with a more moderate winner than if the party's choice had won. On principle, that's what you want. We made our point in this race - now let's hope the ones who failed us get the message and don't stick their heads back in the sand.

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