NY-23: Conservative vs. Republican

The Congressional race in New York’s 23rd District pits a Democrat against a Republican against a Conservative (New York has a Conservative Party), all of whom have polled around 30%. It has been an interesting object lesson in showing how conservatives aren’t automatically Republicans. In a nutshell, through typical back-room arm-twisting, the local GOP nominated a liberal Republican, Dede Scozzafava, which ticked off many in the conservative base, who have thrown their support behind the Conservative party candidate, Doug Hoffman. The race has gained national attention and Republicans have split, with Scozzafava garnering the endorsements of the GOP establishment, Newt Gingrich and the NRA while Hoffman has gained those of Fred Thompson, Sarah Palin and other conservatives. (More background here). Jonah Goldberg offers this concise explanation of what small “c” conservatives are thinking:

I’ve said a million times that I’m a Republican by default because the GOP is the more conservative of the two major parties. If a sensible conservative can beat a liberal Republican than I see no reason to support the Republican out of some team mentality.
William F. Buckley’s policy was always that he was for the most conservative candidate electable. This has always struck me as the most pithy and most sensible statement on these kinds of questions. Protest votes on ideal candidates are ultimately ill-advised and self-indulgent. Though it can be hard to accept the truth of it…. I agree entirely that the GOP needs more moderates. It needs more everybody. But in NY 23 Hoffman can win. That means he’s not a protest vote, he’s a vote for the most conservative candidate electable.

Buckley’s axiom–vote for the most electable conservative candidate–is worth keeping in mind around here.

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George
George
11 years ago

I respect the late Mr. Buckley and have often admired his brilliance.
But if people would stop worrying about electability and just vote for the right person, the the right person would become electable. The key to the long term success of ideas isn’t in succombing to the whim of the wind. It’s is in sticking to principle and educating the voter about how bad policy affects them and how that person they think is “electable” is really going to hurt them.
The more “Hoffmans” we can get elected, the better chance we have of getting through to the elite party establishment.

Marc
Marc
11 years ago

George, Believe me, I understand your point, but it isn’t at all at odds with Buckley’s belief. (Lest we forget, he himself ran a quixotic race for mayor of NY in the ’60s). In the NY race, Hoffman is clearly electable. I don’t think Buckley’s conception of “electability” was necessarily the same we see bandied about by “those in the know” nowadays. The Chafee/Laffey race comes to mind–I would have considered both electaable, regardless of what the local cognoscenti said, and Laffey was clearly the more conservative. Buckley was speaking more about weaker third party candidates (ie; Libertarian, Cool Moose, Green) for whom individual voters may agree with down the line, but who usually stand a snowball’s chance.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

The Republicans need more moderates / need more everybody … to a point.
But not to the point where they are dictating, or even influencing, core principles – watering them down to “middle of the road” pabulum.
The Democrats are discovering what “moderates” do to a party’s agenda (thank God).
This illustrates why, past a certain threshold, we shouldn’t vote for the (relatively) most conservative candidate when they really aren’t, and thereby give them the advantages of intra-party incumbency and advantages of general electoral incumbency (much greater now than when Buckley spoke), and keep our powder dry for the next election cycle.
The “moderates” want to control the GOP. That is the issue and the problem, and so long as that is the case we must isolate them, if not drive them from the GOP.

steadman
steadman
11 years ago

Buckley’s brother won a senate seat under the conservative party banner in NY during the 70s. I think buckley himself would have found the NY23 election worth looking at. While the media claims this is “important” as a reflection on obama, I think its much more important to see how the two party system handles a populist (real or imagined) jolt. Hoffman is an appealing candidate, however weak on many issues and unclear. Dede has proven to be a joke, as seen by her calling the cops on the National Review and her laughable press conference infront of Hoffman headquarters. Its worth noting the the Daily Kos endorsed her, they base that on the fact that Dem. Bill Owens is nothing more than a “bluedog”. If more voters would be willing to bet on a third option instead of compromising there beliefs to fit under the two party system, I think our legislative branch would be much better off. Its an interesting election for sure.

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