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The Price Of Apostasy

Well, the amazingly-entertaining race for New York's 23rd Congressional District ends today, and it has brought out some truly enlightening facts. The most important one, to me, is how the two major parties deal with apostates.

OK, some don't like that term. It has too religious a connotation. They prefer "mavericks" or "rogues," but they've gotten too associated with specific individuals -- more specifically, the Republican ticket from last November. The "maverick" was the approving term for John McCain whenever he swerved left, and "rogue" was the epithet for Sarah Palin for when she stuck to her conservative guns (in several senses of the term). But I think 'apostasy" applies here -- there are some issues where there is very little margin for deviation.

In upstate New York, a seat opened in the House when the Republican incumbent accepted President Obama's appointment to Secretary of the Army. And instead of a primary, the local Republican party officials chose their nominee: state assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.

Scozzafava, however, was not well beloved of many of the rank and file. They had problems with too many of her positions.

On abortion, she was pro-choice. "Pro-life" has been a tenet of the Republican party for years. And Scozzafava isn't just "squishily" pro-choice like I am; she's so fierce that she was given an award in the name of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

On unions, Scozzafava favors the abomination known as "card-check" in the Orwellian-named "Employee Free Choice Act." This would allow unions to bypass the secret ballot process in organizing a work force. In a twist that Orwell would love, the notion that depriving workers of this most fundamental right is championed by the Democratic party.

Plus her husband's a major union official, and that certainly couldn't help matters.

On health care reform, Scozzafava had come out solidly behind ObamaCare -- before, I believe, Obama himself released the plan.

Finally, during her time in the state legislature, Scozzafava had run up quite a record of voting for tax hikes.

For all this, Scozzafava was still the choice of the GOP machinery. Those that picked her stood by their choice, and several national Republican leaders -- including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- all flew to upstate New York to help her out.

But a lot of other people remembered the words of wisdom of Harry S Truman. "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." And they knew that the converse was true.

And even if Scozzafava won, what would be the difference? Her votes on so many major issues would be in lockstep with the Democrats. Which would guarantee her prominence among the mainstream media, who love nothing more than a Republican flipping the bird to their own party.

So those who saw little difference between Scozzafava and the Democratic nominee found a third choice: they got this accountant who'd never even run for dog catcher -- but who seemed to espouse some significant conservative beliefs -- and put him up for the Conservative party, New York's equivalent of a GOP "farm team."

And he drove Scozzafava right out of the race. At which point she repaid all that the GOP mainstream had done for her by endorsing her Democratic rival. And to make her point absolutely unmistakable, she did so through an announcement on her husband's union's web site.

Let's make it clear: Scozzafava was not a "maverick," not a "rogue," but an apostate. She willfully and cheerfully violated quite a few principles that many Republicans hold dear. Most people can overlook one or two, but Scozzafava, it was clear, was a RINO (Republican In Name Only), or a donkey in elephant's clothing.

The Republican leadership had no real problems with that. They saw the (R) after her name, and figured she'd go off on her own for the most part, but every now and then could be trusted to vote with the party -- and that was good enough. So they invested a great deal in her.

It was the outsiders, the leaders that the RNC prefers to deal with at arms' length, the figures that have absolutely no obligation to the RNC, and the common people who saw virtually no difference between Scozzafava and the admitted Democrat who chose to "punish" her.

And what was her punishment? "No, you're not winning this election." She retains -- for now -- her state assembly seat. And if she loses it, it will be in large part because of what she did after she withdrew.

On the other hand, let's look at the Democrats' most famous apostate: Joe Lieberman.

In 2000, Lieberman was acceptable enough to serve as the party's vice-presidential nominee. I recall at the time (remember, this was pre-9/11) thinking that he was probably the most decent of the four men, and we'd be a hell of a lot better off if we dumped the two bozos at the top of the ticket and just let Lieberman and Cheney run the country for four years. (They'd toss a coin to see who got to be president for the first two years, and who would be president for the latter two years.)

But in 2006, Lieberman was up for re-election for his Senate seat. But while he had toed the party line on nearly every issue, he was a staunch, unapologetic supporter of the war in Iraq. And for that one offense, he was cast out. The national party arranged for a challenger in his primary ,and threw all their weight behind Ned Lamont. the Nutroots went all in for Lamont, who beat Lieberman in the primary.

And then Lieberman ran as an independent and demolished Lamont in the general election, returning to the Senate unencumbered by any loyalty or obligation to the Democrats -- who suddenly found they needed him after all.

To his credit, Lieberman has tried several times to reconcile with the party with whom he shares so many ideals and principles. But he has always been rebuffed. He is treated with scorn and contempt -- until they remember that they need his vote fairly often, and then they go, hat in hand, to ask for his help.

Oddly enough, I'm reminded of Shylock from "The Merchant Of Venice," who I always thought got a raw deal. The Antonios of the Democratic party have no problems running down Lieberman at every opportunity -- until they need him.

Lieberman, wisely, has avoided demanding his pound of flesh in exchange for his votes. But he remains a sterling example of how the Democrats treat those who stray too far from the party line.


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Comments (18)

I think the price for apost... (Below threshold)
James H:

I think the price for apostasy varies on a regional level, and even in terms of the person.

Heath "Butterfingers" Shuler of North Carolina is notably to the right of his fellow Democrats on gun rights and abortion. But as I understand it, he faces few reprisals because his district is more conservative than a lot of Democrats' districts.

On the Republican side, Theodore Olson is leading the charge in favor of gay marriage, but as far as I know, the price of his apostasy has been quite low given his standing in conservative legal circles.

<a href="http://www.co.jeff... (Below threshold)
Naked Farmanimals:

http://www.co.jefferson.ny.us/elections/FEDERAL.HTM

Local NY-23 results from Jefferson County, NY page. Results start posting at 9PM.

Watching the blogs around t... (Below threshold)
Lysander:

Watching the blogs around this race has been interesting. The left wing blogs (including a nameless one) has been hyping the Hoffman "attack" as a Social Conservative "witch hunt" (i.e. SocialCons going after Scozzafava for her "Gay Marriage" and Abortion positions) while most of the right wing blogs have focused on Scozzafava's "poor fit" for her fiscal irresponsibility such as never meeting a tax increase she didn't like - or champion.

What I really want to know is why it's so bloody difficult to get a Fiscal Conservative that lets people make up their own minds on the "Social" side.

What I really want... (Below threshold)
James H:
What I really want to know is why it's so bloody difficult to get a Fiscal Conservative that lets people make up their own minds on the "Social" side.

Possibly because for a generation, evangelical conservatives have been a key part of the conservative coalition.

What I really want to know ... (Below threshold)
Tim:

What I really want to know is why it's so bloody difficult to get a Fiscal Conservative that lets people make up their own minds on the "Social" side.

Because the "Fiscal Conservative/Social Liberal" is a mythical being. Social liberalism always ends up using taxpayer money to pay for it's programs. Social liberalism always relies on government to carry out its agenda. Actually, government intervention and control is the goal of social liberalism.

Because the "Fisca... (Below threshold)
James H:
Because the "Fiscal Conservative/Social Liberal" is a mythical being. Social liberalism always ends up using taxpayer money to pay for it's programs. Social liberalism always relies on government to carry out its agenda. Actually, government intervention and control is the goal of social liberalism.

I think we're using two different definitions of social liberalism here. I think Tim's definition involves a person who is interested in expanding government programs and intervention in the marketplace, particularly in issues such as healthcare and financial regulation. I think Lysander's is more properly termed social libertarianism, with a focus on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. A libertarian or "liberal" in that context presumably prefers that individuals be left to their own decisions.

James, you may be right, bu... (Below threshold)
Tim:

James, you may be right, but the social liberals never seem to let it end right there. Take abortion, for example. To the SL, it's not enough that abortion is legal and unrestricted. To the SL, it's unfair if someone can't afford one. In fact, it's more than unfair, because a woman who can't afford an abortion is "punished" (to use an Obama-ism) more by having a child than someone with more money. Therefore, government must step in and help. And that means using tax dollars to pay for the abortion. In the name of fairness and social justice, you see.

Guys, it seems to me like y... (Below threshold)
jim x:

Guys, it seems to me like you are straining to reach the opposite conclusion here than the one that's indicated.

If what you're saying is that being pro-Choice and pro-Union is completely, totally unacceptable AT ALL EVER in any Republican candidate, well...you will reap the whirlwind.

Because, like it or not, the majority of Americans are both pro-Choice and pro-Union.

Scozzafazza probably would have won this district - it's been Republican since before the Civil War!!! But she got betrayed by her own party first. That she paid it back should surprise no one. What's interesting to me is that no one appears to have even seen it coming. I mean, this is politics. What could they expect?

As you point out, Lieberman didn't just lie down after being primaried. Nor would any number of politicians take well to being cast out by their own party.

I think those who chose to back Hoffman didn't foresee Scozzofazza's actions, because they were more interested in using this election to show their *own* power by flexing their muscle. Specifically Sarah Palin first, and then everyone else to establish **their own** bona fides before the conservative base.

Just my opinion. It sure is a fascinating microcosm to analyze.

Well, Tim, I can't speak fo... (Below threshold)
James H:

Well, Tim, I can't speak for other social liberals, but for me, it comes down to what you mean by "social justice," "fairness," and "government funding." And possibly "is," but that only applies to White House interns.

If somebody proposes to me a government program solely to fund abortions for low-income women, I'm going to tell him to get out of my face. Roe and its progeny, after all, guarantee the right to access to an abortion, not to government funding for it.

Now, let's say somebody proposes to me a comprehensive government program to furnish medical services to the poor and middle class, including a wide array of preventive medicine and a really really keen pregnancy and prenatal care option. But no coverage for abortion or contraception. Social conservatives don't like that, you see.

I'm going to oppose that. Not because I think all women should have access to abortions and contraception, but because I believe that if the federal government is going to pay for all sorts of medical procedures and medicines, then abortion and contraception should be among the options available ... as a matter of basic fairness.

See the distinction?

Scozzafava needs to change ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Scozzafava needs to change her party affiliation.

James H comes closest to wh... (Below threshold)
Lysander:

James H comes closest to what I mean - more of the "libertarian" rather than "liberal" meaning.

Scozzafava was selected via... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Scozzafava was selected via a broken process run by political insiders. She was not a good fit for the electorate hence her dramatic plunge in the polls.

The GOP in this case reap what they have sown. They betrayed their constituency by nominating a liberal who has stood on the wrong side of every major issue as far as conservatives are concerned. The GOP has many wishy washy congressmen and Senators who vote against the party grain on a few issues. None, however, stand so categorically against the party platform as does Scozzafava.

The GOP has never demanded ideological purity like the Dems have with Lieberman and others.

Unfortunately, I rather doubt that the GOP will learn anything from this other than to try to hide themselves better from the public.

Jim x Because, like it ... (Below threshold)
TexBob:

Jim x Because, like it or not, the majority of Americans are both pro-Choice and pro-Union.

Care to back that up with some facts? I don't agree.

TexBob: Agree with you on J... (Below threshold)

TexBob: Agree with you on Jim x assertions. According to Gallup, nation is now majority pro-life. And union workers are only 12% of the work force, so hard to see how it can be said that the majority of Americans are pro-union.

Scozzafazza was polling dead last and dropping fast. She dropped out because she had no chance. At the time she dropped out she said she did it because she didn't want to hurt the Republican party. A day later she endorsed the Democrat. Is it any wonder she had such little support? Anyone familiar with her voting record should not be surprised she endorsed the Democrat.

James H :"..I believ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

James H :
"..I believe that if the federal government is going to pay for all sorts of medical procedures and medicines,.."

First off, if you think the 'federal govt' pays for anything, you are a Social Liberal. Taxpayers pay for everything. (I would guess that was a 'slip of the tongue', because you seem smarter than that.)

Secondly, if you think it's o.k. for the feds to be so heavily involved in our lives that they control our healthcare (and only if they provide for abortions, to boot), you are a Social Liberal.

Tim was right.: "Social liberalism always ends up using taxpayer money to pay for it's programs."

Here are my sources for tho... (Below threshold)
jim x:

Here are my sources for those polls.

Pro-choice:

http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

pro-union:

http://www.pollingreport.com/work.htm

...and there you have it.

The pro-Union part is much closer; but it seems to still be a majority. And even if it was a close minority, I'd personally think it wise to not have a litmus test for your party that automatically excluded union support.

Why do I care? I think the US is well served with non-hardliners who can negotiate and work together, a process that is generally disparaged as "compromise".

But hey, roll how you like. : )

No, Les, read a little more... (Below threshold)
James H:

No, Les, read a little more carefully. I said that if we assume a priori that such a program exists, I would want expansive funding for medical procedures without denying certain procedures because one political segment is uncomfortable with them.

"If what you're saying i... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"If what you're saying is that being pro-Choice and pro-Union is completely, totally unacceptable AT ALL EVER in any Republican candidate, well...you will reap the whirlwind."

Read the post again. Jay didn't say any such thing. He said one or two things can be a point of contention, but not necessarily enough to completely oppose someone. Though being pro-choice and/or pro-union are certainly big issues, they aren't everything. It's the specifics that matter there for most Americans. When you say "the majority of Americans are both pro-Choice and pro-Union" you're not telling the whole story. Most Americans are pro-Choice and pro-Union with reasonable restrictions on abortion and reasonable power checks on unions.

Those aren't the only two reasons Scozzafava was rejected. She was also all for the health care legislation before it even came out. She was also for, not just unions, but for Card Check specifically. She also seems to have regularly favored tax hikes. To me, that spells Democrat - not conservative or even Republican.




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