"The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it." -- Paul-Muad'Dib Atreides, in Dune.
November 5, 2009
Insurgents on the Right Lose Badly
By Froma Harrop
The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party had the perfect strategy for upstate New York's 23rd congressional district:
1. Support a candidate who doesn't live in the district -- in this case, Conservative Douglas Hoffman. Savage the local Republican choice, Dede Scozzafava, and hound her into dropping out.
2. Condemn the local Republicans who had picked the moderate Scozzafava as being "insiders." And have the finger-pointers be Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. (Guess no one would ever accuse them of being insiders in upstate New York.)
3. Refer to the issues that concern voters in the "North Country" district -- dredging the St. Lawrence River, building a new highway -- as "parochial." Have that term be flung by former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, now a right-wing gadfly -- and in response to distress shown by the Watertown Daily Times editorial board that Hoffman knew nothing of local matters.
4. Bring Armey into the editorial board meeting.
5. Have Palin make flashy sweeps through upstate New York, spreading voter repellant around this politically moderate district.
Put it all together, and you have the perfect strategy for turning a congressional seat that had been in Republican hands for well over a century into a Democratic seat. As recently as last month, polls showed Scozzafava trouncing both the Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Hoffman in the polls. Not an easy race for Republicans to lose, but the Tea Party nihilists showed how.
A lesson here for Republicans, and Democrats as well, is that Americans don't live on cable television or talk radio. These media invented the Tea Party movement and egg on its followers, who are angry for reasons not necessarily related to politics.
This crowd, after all, is pretty darn colorful and makes for good entertainment.
Americans live in real places, and their candidates tend to be familiar figures they have coffee with. Scozzafava had served as a mayor and state assemblywoman. She was not some cartoon character on which the opposition could safely launch its childish attacks.
No electorate approves of carpetbaggers. If any word describes what Tea-Baggers tried to pull in upstate New York, it was an outsiders' takeover of a local race.]
Hoffman clearly spent more time visiting with Glenn Beck than reading the local papers. And his Tea-Baggers were also moneybaggers. On Election Day, when Hoffman seemed to have a slight edge, the Club for Growth proudly announced out of Washington that it had dumped over $1 million into his campaign coffers.
"Hoffman's cash didn't come from somebody in Hermon or Hopkinton or Adams Center or from anywhere that cares about the country," wrote Jeffrey Savitskie, a Watertown Daily Times editor who had planned to vote for Scozzafava, but then moved to Owens. "It came from folks who know so little about the North Country that they would likely believe it if you told them Alexandria Bay was an exotic dancer."
Independents should welcome the outcome in upstate New York, not because a Democrat won, but because the American two-party system needs to offer them a real choice. It can't please them that New York state will now have only two Republicans in its 29-member congressional delegation, or that New England has none.
The Republican Party has been torn by a civil war between its establishment and insurgents on the right. The battle of New York's 23rd could be the Gettysburg that determines the winner. The right-wingers lost badly in what was a reliably Republican district.
But questions remain whether the Tea-Baggers will retreat -- and more unsettling for mainstream Republicans, who the Tea-Baggers thought they were fighting.
My reply to Froma Harrop (Yes, I swear, that's her real name.) --
re: "Insurgents on the Right Lose Badly"
Your concentration upon the ingredients of the stew in NY-23 has caused you to miss the point of making it. For all the mistakes that Mr. Hoffman and his supporters made, they were successful at getting the attention of their target audience: the old bulls of the Upstate New York Club of The Dead Elephant Society, who chose their candidate without reference to the desires of the people. (And, of course, the other targets were the national so-called leaders of that exclusive club).
Now, your bias is evident by your use of the leftist gutter sexual term for the Tea Party folks, so I'll get right to the point.
May I refer you to a truth uttered by a character of Frank Herbert's in Dune?
"The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it." -- Paul-Muad'Dib Atreides
The Tea Party folks actually won on the only battlefield that matters nationally to them: the few inches of battlespace between the ears of the national GOP leadership. They demonstrated with the Hoffman campaign that they have the ability to bring down the Dead Elephant Society's power. Do you think that such a raw exercise of arrogance by these GOP mandarins will happen again anytime soon? Do you think that any group of the Dead Elephant Society anywhere in the country will once again try to shove their wishes down the throats of the newly-energized base?
The Tea Party contingent now has the power to destroy the GOP's hopes for recovering national power. They just demonstrated it. Whether the Dead Elephant Society is smart enough to recognize it or is too moribund to understand they must adapt and regrow a sense of principles that they long ago abandoned are the only pertinent questions.
Your mistake is that you think this is a parochial fight about "New Yaarker" politics. It isn't. It is an existential battle for what kind of country we will have at the end of the Obama era, and the essential question is whether it will be settled by politics or by violence.
If the GOP recovers its senses, it may yet be settled politically. But Americans, being a practical people, will make their own arrangements if the previous forms fail. We did it before and we'll do it again if necessary.
Food for thought while you contemplate the error of your analysis.
The alleged leader of a merry band of Three Percenters.
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126