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The Lessons From New York

Well, the Democrats picked up the NY-23 House seat. What lessons can be drawn from this?

First up, let's acknowledge the obvious: it was a loss for the Republican party.

Especially its leadership.

The local leaders, when the incumbent was tapped by Obama to be Secretary of the Army (in a play to both "bring more Republicans into the administration" so as to provide "bipartisan" cover and to free up a seat they thought a Democrat could easily win), didn't have a primary to pick their nominee. Rather, they looked around, saw that Obama had carried the district in November, and picked a a candidate they thought could win. And the national leadership didn't bat an eye; they saw that Scozzafava had the right letter after her name, and checked off without looking too carefully.

Others did, though. And they found that Scozzafava's liberal credentials were even stronger than the Democratic nominee. So strong, in fact, that Daily Kos actually crossed party lines and backed her over the Democrat.

This is when the rank and file started to rebel. They got a guy to run on the Conservative Party ticket and started throwing their weight behind him instead of Scozzafava. And they got some serious help: national conservative figures (starting with Fred Thompson, then Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, among others) backed the guy.

That got the steamroller going. Hoffman (the Conservative Party guy) soon found himself with a ton of campaign contributions from all across the nation, as well as national attention and support.

And what a steamroller it was. Hoffman went from a schlub nobody third-party loser in single digits into a major contender. Major enough to take that liberal Republican right off the boards.

Said Republican didn't go down quietly, though. She took all the support she'd collected from the local and national GOP, and tossed it all behind the Democrat -- who won.

Think about that for a moment. This gawky, dorky schlemiel accountant from a third party managed -- in a matter of weeks -- to destroy the GOP leadership-anointed candidate and come within a few percentage points of beating the Democrats. And he did this with the opposition (direct and indirect) of the biggest officials of both parties.

And how did that happen? To be blunt, Hoffman himself had very little to do with it. (If you saw the guy on TV, you saw he was definitely an amateur politician.) It was literally a grass-roots move, aided and abetted by people that the national GOP leadership quite frankly doesn't like too much. It was a solid rejection of the party leadership by the people the leadership claims to be representing.

There are those who are trying to spin this as some sort of defeat for Palin and the Tea Party people. And yeah, it was -- their guy lost.

But in the bigger picture, it's only as much of a defeat as they want it to be. Losing a single election simply isn't enough to squash movements like this. It usually takes either a completely crushing defeat, or a victory that they are unprepared for, that undoes such movements. (Ask Minnesota's Jesse Ventura on that one.) Here, the conservatives utterly destroyed the most liberal candidate on the ballot, and almost beat the Democrat -- who had the endorsement of the Republican.

And what did the Democrats win? One more House seat where they already had a comfortable lead. Now they'll have an incumbent who will only have a single year to build up his support before he'll be challenged again -- quite likely by the same candidate, this time with the full backing of the Republican party. (If they're smart, that is, and he runs again.) Hell, they might have been better off if they'd lost it -- Scozzafava was even more in tune with the Democratic agenda than Congressman-Elect Owens.

The real message out of New York? The parties can no longer take for granted their power and authority. The explosion of alternate means of communication has given rise to a whole host of new avenues to power -- and a whole new crop of leaders who not only didn't use the old systems, but couldn't care less about them.

There are times that call for leaders. There are times when leaders need to step forward and show the way to the people.

And there are times when the leaders need to recognize that the people have their own ideas about which way to go. At that point, the leaders have three choices: they can go off in their own direction by themselves, they can stand still and get trampled, or they can race with the crowd and try to get ahead of them to at least seem like they're still leaders. They can try to ride the tiger, with all the dangers that ensue.

It's time to ride the tiger. Some get that.

Sarah Palin, for one, does get that.

Newt Gingrich, for one, doesn't get that.

Nor does Michael Steele.

They better learn, and learn fast.


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Comments (20)

It's time to ri... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

It's time to ride the tiger. Some get that.

Sarah Palin, for one, does get that.

Newt Gingrich, for one, doesn't get that.

Nor does Michael Steele.

They better learn, and learn fast.

Stating the obvious -- the Tiger lost.

Ride it for all it's worth - it's worth has proven short of "election-winning".

I wonder how bad Hoffman wo... (Below threshold)

I wonder how bad Hoffman would have beat Owens if the republican party had picked and supported him instead of Scozzafava? Would the dems be crowing today that their known party member was only 4 or so points ahead of a third party unknown in an election, I doubt it. mpw

Obviously Steve Green doesn... (Below threshold)
Sky Captain:

Obviously Steve Green doesn't get it either.

He either thinks he does, or is trying to hijack the thread.

Good post, Jay!

I'll try to get the formatt... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

I'll try to get the formatting right this time.

It's time to ride the tiger. Some get that.

Sarah Palin, for one, does get that.

Newt Gingrich, for one, doesn't get that.

Nor does Michael Steele.

They better learn, and learn fast.

Stating the obvious -- the Tiger lost.

Riding a losing tiger doesn't make sense.

Steele and Gingrich were vindicated. Splitting the non-Democratic vote is losing proposition - you will always end up pushing moderates into the Demcoratic camp.

It was obvious to Steele. He was right.

It was obvious to Gingrich. He was right.

Sarah Palin can't exist in the middle so with her enormous ego she is trying to split the GOP and it's will just push more Dems in to the win category.

Ride a losing tiger and you will lose.

Just like you lost NY-23.

"Steele and [Newt] were vin... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

"Steele and [Newt] were vindicated."

Green, Sturm, by any other name the effluent so ladled 'twould smell as sweet.

The NRCC hosed the selection, hosed the eventual defacto candidate by attacking him rather than the Donk, hosed their pick by abandoning her, hosed the third party guy by taking over his campaign in the last days, etc.

Inevitable? The Donks hadn't represented the district since the Civil War. The DNF candidate got more votes than the margin of victory over the third party.

Hoffman had cojones and we salute him but he's an overacheiver and didn't figure to be the candidate otherwise.

The DC GOP crapped the bed.

Stevie is just another tota... (Below threshold)

Stevie is just another totally obsessed Palin hater. Also, as always, Stevie doesn't get the point of the post. What is more important is that the RNC did and even more important are the representatives serving now that will be up for election next year. No moderate-liberal republicans will get elected or re-elected. And the Blue Dog democrats in the south and tighter districts got the message. Obama has been exposed as the inexperienced empty suit we conservatives always knew he was. I am extremely pleased of the outcome of yesterdays election. Even here in liberal Houston Texas there is a run off between a conservative republican and a conservative democrat for mayor. The worm has turned. Liberals deny and spin all you want. One year of Obama and we have nothing except higher unemployment. Less transparency. More earmarks. Triple deficit spending. Lack of leadership in the wars. Can't close Gitmo.

One thing Obama does well is hold many parties at the white house. More then any other president. All the while faux saluting fallen soldiers for a photo op. Shame, shame. ww

NY23 congressional district... (Below threshold)

NY23 congressional district

Michael R. McNulty · Democratic, January 3, 1989 - January 3, 1993 ..

MaggieThe MSM doesn'... (Below threshold)

The MSM doesn't care about the truth. They repeat a lie enough it becomes reality.

Wayne, That's true,... (Below threshold)

That's true, but it can be corrected at
Wizbang. :)

I'm afraid that the GOP ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

I'm afraid that the GOP does get it, but the lesson they are going to draw from it is that they need to shut up people from talking on the internet.

It's not about ideas or convictions for either major party any more. It's only about power and perpetual incumbency.

Maggie, great catch. In fac... (Below threshold)

Maggie, great catch. In fact, if Wiki is reliable (and it's hard to tell because of redistricting), it looks like the district has been mostly Democratic since the 30s.

Lesson--never accept anything from the MSM or the left without checking it.

The GOP pushed a Liberal ca... (Below threshold)

The GOP pushed a Liberal candidate because it believed that its conservative supporters had no where to go.

NY23 proved them wrong.

Newt's candidate QUIT</b... (Below threshold)

Newt's candidate QUIT
Steele's candidate QUIT
The NRCC's's candidate QUIT
She also took 900k in cash and then endorsed the Democrat candidate.

The conservatives won because they had a candidate they could vote for.

"Sarah Palin can't exist in... (Below threshold)

"Sarah Palin can't exist in the middle so with her enormous ego she is trying to split the GOP and it's will just push more Dems in to the win category."

She really does got You and VIC by the angstly sac does'nt She.

Wasn't the real problem the... (Below threshold)

Wasn't the real problem the fact that the local party bosses picked a woman so thin skinned she called the cops on a reporter asking a question? And then lied (proven by video) about how the reporter was acting in an agressive / threatening manner. Had the bosses nominated someone who didn't make Drudge for being a whiny witch, we would hardly have heard of her.

That's a great observation,... (Below threshold)
Andrew X:

That's a great observation, that "losing a single election simply isn't enough to squash movements like this. It usually takes either a completely crushing defeat, or a victory that they are unprepared for...."

In the latter category, there is another very prominent leader of a "movement" that comes to mind.

I said and remain convinced that, when Barack Obama entered the race against Hillary Clinton, he did not expect to win. What he did expect was to get himself on the map big time, use that prominence in the Senate, and run for the big chair down the road. A confluence of factors that had nothing to do with him (and certainly not because of any "masterful political skills") resulted in his winning both the nomination and the presidency.

And here we are.

Is his movement being "destroyed" as a result? I will refrain from comment, and merely ask the dear reader to look around.

"Had the bosses nominate... (Below threshold)

"Had the bosses nominated someone who didn't make Drudge for being a whiny witch, we would hardly have heard of her."

True. But the facts would remain the same whether or not those of us outside NY-23 were aware. I said earlier that the RNC bosses never for a second counted on the rest of the country learning squat about this race. In the past, unless there was some child pornography going on, few cared about another's district.

The "real problem" was far more than just the thickness of her skin or some petty altercation. Though that was the catalyst for her downfall (it shed light on the rest of her history) it's not what finished her.

Look at Cynthia McKinney (if you can). She got physical with a security guard, but that's not what ended her career. It was the attention it brought to her record. But I guess it's not her fault that the public refused to understand the importance of directing tax-payer money to a museum dedicated to the life and times of Tupac (among many other useless legislative suggestions she proposed.) I had the distinct pleasure of perusing her Congressional website too. Charming, to say the least. One whole page was dedicated to glamor shots of herself.

A lesson for both sides to ... (Below threshold)

A lesson for both sides to learn from this:

The party leadership controls the "Get Out the Vote" machine. If you are going to tell them to take a hike, you better have your own machine ready to roll. Otherwise you will get beat on the ground on election day.

The Republican Party really... (Below threshold)

The Republican Party really jumped the shark in New York's 23rd and it will either get that message or will be 86-ed everywhere else.

Meanwhile Mr Gingrich and his ilk had better have a fork put in'em.

The old-(two?)-timers are all done and the new leader is named Sarah Louise Heath Reagan-Palin.

New York unemployment is on... (Below threshold)

New York unemployment is on the rise, but conditions vary throughout the state according to this heat map:






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