Dede Scozzafava, the GOP nominee for the NY-23 Congressional district, has a sympathetic piece in the Washington Times about those mean ol’ Republicans and those rascally conservatives who “forced” her out of the race. Brave Dede even has a warning for those who weren’t jazzed about her nomination:
“There is a lot of us who consider ourselves Republicans, of the Party of Lincoln,” she said, her face now flush. “If they don’t want us with them, we’re going to work against them.”
Never mind, of course, that the GOP didn’t force Scozzafava out – to the contrary, the NRCC gave her $900,000 for her campaign. What forced her out were her sagging poll numbers and the realization the seat was a 2-person race between Bill Owens and Doug Hoffman. Did the Hoffman endorsements by prominent conservatives play a role? Probably a small one, but that would mean that those conservatives had some legitimate sway in the district.
The fact remains that Scozzafava was to the left of the Democrat on several issues during the campaign. Although she’s mad that Sarah Palin insinuated she was anointed by a political machine, the truth is that she was. The local Republican committee nominated her without a primary, so, sorry, you were in fact “anointed.” Her last-minute endorsement of Owens was revealing in showing that she cared more about scoring some petty revenge points than assisting the party for which she claims she wants to run again. Well, you endorsed the Democrat who promptly reneged on his opposition to Pelosi’s health plan and voted for it immediately on arriving to Congress. Now you’re making the Republican defeat in your district all about poor you. Good luck working within the GOP, Dede. Even level-headed Patterico goes ballistic on your hypocrisy.
Liberals and Democrats have been giddy about pointing to the race and the Owens victory as evidence of the crack up of the Republican Party and as some bizarre proof of the righteousness of the Democratic cause (never mind the Virginia and New Jersey results that same night). I rather doubt that any larger lessons about the national picture can be gleaned from NY-23 – if Hoffman had been the guy from the get-go, he probably would have beaten Owens. Likewise, if Scozzafava’s name isn’t on the ballot after she pulls out, Hoffman most likely wins. With the absolute mess that existed, it’s no wonder that Owens was able to win a historically Republican district, albeit with a slim margin owing to the above factors and Scozzafava’s endorsement.
My larger point is that moderates should absolutely have a place in the Republican Party. The only problem is that Scozzfava is no moderate – she was more liberal than the Democratic nominee in certain areas. Indeed, one has to wonder why on principle Scozzafava considers herself a Republican for any other reason besides political expediency. There are some areas where such a candidate might be electorally useful, but NY-23 wasn’t one of those places. In the end, politicians may disagree on issues, but there must a level of agreement that serves as the principled base from which the party moves forward.
The backlash against Scozzafava doesn’t represent a desire to kick out moderates, but a frustration by conservatives that the Republicans would try to put up a candidate so at odds with the goals of a majority of the GOP and try to assert with a straight face that she’d serve their interests in Congress. After a Presidential campaign that saw a moderate McCain get defeated despite “reaching out” and annoying many GOPers with his stands on immigration, campaign finance, climate change, and other issues, conservatives and Republicans are simply tired of being offered policies and candidates that are simply watered-down versions of their Democratic equivalent. It’s not a push to the extreme right that’s desired, it’s a clear enunciation of some message that means something besides “get elected at any cost,” of a vision inspired by principle and driven by common sense pragmatism.
So far, the Republican leadership is failing miserably.
Update: Cross-posted at The Moderate Voice.