Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What To Do? What To Do?

The Republican Party leaders find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to recover from the electoral thrashing they took in 2006 and 2008 in which they lost first the Congress and then the White House. The American public finally lost patience with the far right base which was running things and which managed to run the country right into the ground. It took four years, but the GOP finally decided to change its strategy and to opt for more moderate Republicans so that they could win an election or two.

That of course drove the party's basest base into open rebellion, as the off-year election for a House seat from New York is showing. The district in question has long been considered "safe" for Republicans, but President Obama carried the district by a slim margin (52%). Local party officials tapped a moderate Republican. Sarah Palin and Dick Armey, along with Glenn Beck swooped in and endorsed the Conservative Party candidate instead. Now the national party is watching anxiously to see how it will play out.

From the Los Angeles Times:

In fact, Johnson and many other conservatives want to use a Nov. 3 special election to teach the GOP a lesson about sticking to conservative values -- even though that lesson could mean the party loses a House seat it has held for decades. The conservatives are backing a third-party candidate, splitting the Republican vote and giving the Democrat a lead in some recent opinion polls.

"Both parties seem to be more for big government," said Johnson, a probation clerk in Fulton, N.Y. "The Republicans need to learn that the people they are running [for office] do not represent the views of the people." ...

The fight on the right has also made this district the epicenter of a national debate about the future of the Republican Party -- leaving party leaders to ask whether they are better off emphasizing the GOP's small-government and socially conservative values, or trying to broaden their appeal to reach independent and moderate voters. ...

The party establishment has tended to choose middle-of-the-road candidates, like moderate Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida. But conservatives have responded by raising money and building up the candidacy of conservative Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House. ...

...Gingrich and many other Republican leaders say that if the party is to win nationally and in swing districts like this one, it cannot move too far to the right.

Support for Hoffman, they argue, is a recipe for electing the Democrat, lawyer Bill Owens. That may allow Republicans to maintain their ideological purity, they say, but it will not win the elections needed to oust Democrats from power.

"We have to decide which business we are in," Gingrich said on his website after conservatives derided his endorsement of Scozzafava. "If we are in the business of feeling good about ourselves while our country gets crushed, then I probably made the wrong decision."

Now, I can, to a certain extent, sympathize with the ultra conservatives. After all, the Democratic Party has been playing the liberal wing of the party in the same way for at least 20 years, offering "electable" candidates and shunning the lefties who have the temerity to run against the chosen. What the far right has to learn, however, is that there are ways to get around the suits in Washington, something the left is finally beginning to get.

First of all, supporting the alternative candidate usually means defeat. It's pretty damned difficult to match the money poured into the coffers of the official candidate by the national party and by lobbyists eager to buy yet another rube.

Second of all, what the candidates promise during the campaign is forgotten when the newly-elected hit Washington (or the state capital, or the mayor's office). I guess it's some kind of cosmic political rule or something.

Third of all, and perhaps most importantly, elections don't end the process, they just start it, at least in a real democracy. The public option was more than off the table in the Senate; it was frickin' out the door of the Senate chambers and down three blocks from the Capitol, hidden in some sewer until thousands of citizens began exerting a little pressure of their own. They signed petitions, they faxed letters of outrage to their representatives' offices and they called, and called, and called.

But, hey. Keep your ideology. As often as I kvetch about Obama, and Feinstein, and Reid, I know that they are still a damned sight better than the alternative. And we're beginning to get their attention.



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