Thursday, October 22, 2009

Republican Fratricide?

David Frum's column on the impending disaster in the New York Congressional race and New Jersey gubernatorial race.

By all rights, the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District should be a Republican cakewalk. Stretching across the hunting and fishing towns along the Great Lakes and Canadian border, the district contains Fort Drum, base of the 10th Mountain division, and re-elected its Republican congressman in the disaster years of 2006 and 2008 by margins of 60-plus percent.

Yet polls show the Republican candidate in serious trouble. State Republican Party leaders prevented an open primary race and instead engineered the nomination of one of their own, moderate, pro-choice Assemblywoman Deirdre Scozzafava.

Angry conservatives in the 23rd rebelled, rallying to the third-party candidacy of local accountant Doug Hoffman. Hoffman and Scozzafava are splitting the Republican vote between them, allowing Democrat Bill Owen to emerge as the front-runner.

I've heard all the arguments that conservatives are making against Scozzafava, including that she's been endorsed by ACORN. These arguments for ideological purity are great if, as Frum says, Republicans are committed to " a more coherent, better mobilized, but perpetually minority party."

Me? I'm interested in winning elections, because only by having majorities can we (a) stop the madness that is Democrats with the pursestrings and (b) pass any legislation with which conservatives can agree.

The main point of this post, was to show that the vast majority of Americans voters don't know a lot about the issues that get the rest of us riled up about. We have to find ways to appeal to the broad middle of the country which isn't as torn up about Scozzafava's endorsements as conservatives might be. I'm not saying that I'm happy with an ACORN-endorsed Republican candidate, but even that candidate would help the GOP regain control of the legislative process (even if she would vote largely with the Dems).

I'm all for discussing and debating the pros and cons of every issue, and I'm certainly open to having my mind changed on many of them. But the ideological purity demanded by much of the Right is not going to entice moderates back to the party. The Party of Reagan was quite tolerant of lots of people who didn't agree on abortion or religion, and the only way to pass any conservative legislation is to convince enough moderates that we're not scarier than what they already face with the Democrats in control.