I've been meaning to post this for a while but since it's 6:30pm on election night 2009 I better get it out there now before election results start coming in and I look like a great predictor of the past.
First a bit of background. If "NY's 23rd" has any meaning to you skip the next paragraph.
Off-year elections, like today, generally don't draw much media attention, especially for small congressional districts most people have never heard of. Like New York's 23rd which borders on Vermont and Canada. Despite the proximity to such deep wells of socialism it's one of the most reliably Republican districts in the country, especially in New York State, not having been in Democratic hands since approximately the Civil War. They're having a special congressional election this year because President Obama chose the sitting Republican congressman, John McHue to be his secretary of the Army. Ordinarily no one would care, another GOP stalwart would be elected and that would be that. This year, however, it's turned into a 3-ring, turned 2-ring circus. The GOP nominated a fairly moderate (though blessed by the NRA so how moderate can she be?) candidate, Dede Scozzafava for what should have been her shoo-in race. The Democrats nominated poor schlub, Bill Owen to take the beating. Things got weird when a third-party candidate, Doug Hoffman, came out of the woodwork under the guise of the Conservative Party because Scozzafava wasn't far enough to the right. This isn't the first time a third party candidate has garnered some attention, right Ross Perot, Joe Lieberman and Ralph Nader? Well, what makes this especially weird is that national Republican figures like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin got behind the Conservative candidate not the one chosen by their own party. (Never mind that Doug Hoffman doesn't actually live in that district and has shown nothing but disdain for local issues. How's that for democracy?!) Weirder still Scozzafava dropped out last weekend. And to top off the weirdness she threw her support behind bill Owen - the Democrat. It's still highly likely he'll lose, but that doesn't make this any less of a spectacle.
And as a proud progressive liberal I hope he does. Bill Owen winning that seat would change nothing in the House. The Democrats already have a very solid, and fairly liberal, majority and he would likely lose the election in 2010 anyway. However, a victory for Hoffman will rev up the Conservative party and force the GOP to give them a lot more attention. In case you don't know, this new party is an offshoot of this summer's tea parties, sponsored primarily by Fox News and Americans For Prosperity, Dick Armey's astroturf lobbying group. They're about as far to the right as you can get without making Ghengis Khan look reasonable. They're upset about their taxes (which haven't changed under President Obama), about their civil liberties (which are stronger under President Obama) about their safety (Obama has kept us safe from terrorist attacks longer than Bush/Cheney) about their gun rights (which are unchanged) and I think you see where this is going. They've often claimed not to be Republicans and until recently I didn't believe them since they sure-as-hell weren't Democrats. But lately it's become obvious that maybe they're something else altogether. Aside from fringers with a tenuous, at best, grasp on reality.
A win for Doug Hoffman will pull the GOP farther out of the mainstream and into the fringe gutter practically ensuring that President Obama is a two-termer, giving him a better chance of unwinding as much of the Bush Presidency as possible. Sure the GOP may gain a few seats in 2010 but nowhere near enough to accomplish anything more than further obstruction and frustration. That frustrations is almost sure to cause a complete rift in the party with the Conservatives taking Sarah Palin and company with them, leaving the GOP a reasonable, conservative/moderate group actually capable of constructive cooperation with the rest of us. A party the original John McCain and John Warner could love.
Assuming that all goes well with President Obama's health care initiative it's going to become another Social Security or Medicare, causing the average American to fall back in love with the Democratic party, blocking the GOP out for another generation, as happened with passage of those two pieces of landmark legislation.
If the GOP remains on the fringe they'll be able to do little more than throw spitballs from the sidelines of history. The best thing that could happen to the GOP would be a complete split between the Tea Party (if they end up calling themselves that this blog is proof that I came up with it and they owe me royalties!) and the Republican Party, restoring a sane two-party balance as our founders intended.
A Conservative party victory in New York's 23rd is just the place to start it. Come on Doug Hoffman. make a liberal proud.