Despite the fervent, high profile effort to prevent New York’s Twenty-Third District (NY-23) from electing Democrat Bill Owens their Congressman, the conservative upstate enclave has officially shifted from red to blue. That the effort failed is nothing short of an embarrassment for the conservative movement.
Along with 2012 presidential hopefuls, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey fought hard to displace Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava. By clearing the way for Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, they won the battle against their own party only to lose to their mutual opponent.
Armey, himself, lent his voice to a robo-call that rang the phones of “25,000 targeted households” in an attempt to get out the conservative vote. Armey and his “grassroots” organization are the same folks who rained on the libertarians’ “tea parties” last April. FreedomWorks, bolstered by enthusiastic support from FOX News Channel, hijacked the anti-tax protests and perverted them into Obama-will-destroy-America hate fests.
Had Hoffman won the NY-23 seat, conservatives would have declared it a validation of their efforts to steer the GOP further right. With victory going to Bill Owens, the right wing of the Republican Party — many of whom no longer associate themselves with the GOP — will assign blame upon their centrists. Either way, they’re marginalizing their moderates.
Progressive journalist David Corn summed it up hours before the polls closed in New York in less than 140 characters:
Good news if Hoffman wins in NY-23, GOP civil war will continue. Good news if Hoffman loses, GOP civil war will continue.
(more below the clip)
Frankly, I found it surprising that Hoffman came as close to winning as he did: 45 percent of the vote to Owens’ 49. Armey, Palin, Pawlenty, and the campaign funds that came with them were outsiders. Hoffman, himself, didn’t yet reside within the district he ran to represent.
The presence of Armey and his ilk exacerbated the perceived importance of this congressional contest. The spectacle of the GOP eating itself heightened the profile of the NY-23 special election among Tuesday’s, already media-hyped contests. Considering those factors, I can’t help but think that the residents of NY-23 resented the attention that tends to accompany Armey’s traveling right-wing circus. That, at least in part, contributed to Owens’ victory. Their objection to a moderate Republican candidate — Scozzafava, incidentally, still got 5 percent of the vote — helped turn a traditionally red congressional seat, blue.
Jessica Pieklo, “The Conservative Canary in New York.” Care2 Political Causes Blog, 2 November 2009.
Image via flickr.com user - K3nna, via CreativeCommons.org