Let's run down the possibilities.
1) Democrats. Well, of course; Bill Owens, a Democrat, won the election, taking over a seat that the Republicans have controlled for over a century, giving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama have one more vote in the House than they had before. The possibility of 2010 becoming another 1994 for the Democrats just got one representative less likely.
2) Republicans. It was a loss for them, of course, but as defeats go, it wasn't terribly significant on its own terms; Dede Scozzafava, the chosen candidate of the New York state GOP to replace John McHugh (whom Obama had appointed to be Secretary of the Army), was an unknown quantity insofar as House voting would have been concerned, and was a terrible candidate to boot, so who knows how long she would have survived, even with the advantage of incumbency? But the real challenge coming out of the race is that posed by Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party nominee.
3) Conservatives. As Josh Marshall noted a couple of days ago, Hoffman's rise as a serious candidate, stealing away major Republican support, eventually leading Scozzafava to drop out of the race, was itself a huge victory; once Hoffman became the "official" alternative to the Democratic candidate in the election, everything else--including an acual Hoffman win--would have been gravy. But what does the conservative movement do with this victory? One likely message it sends is another reminder that the Republican party needs to curry the support of movement conservatives, both social and fiscal, at every turn; that the Republican party can not count on their votes, and are willing to turn to third party candidates. Will that message have legs? Perhaps not; as Jay Cost points out, Scozzafava wasn't chosen through a regular primary process, where conservative activists could have made their votes count early on; and more importantly, New York's Conservative party has a long history, with an infrastructure available for disgruntled Republicans to capitalize upon in switching their allegiance to a preferable candidate. But still, if nothing else, Hoffman give conservatives a sense of the theoretical possibilities, at least.
4) Liberals. Owens's victory means one more vote in support of a variety of liberal causes, of course. But Hoffman's successful challenge to Scozzafava as the alternative to the perceived liberal Democratic party gives greater legitimacy to the "Tea Party" movement, making their attacks upon President Obama and his agenda more credible. On the other hand, a conservative movement which makes cleaning up the Republican party one of its primary objectives may not add a whole lot to persuading voters in the middle to support their anti-Obama platform.
5) The people of the New York 23rd Congressional District. They elected a candidate who actually lives in and knows something about their district, whose campaign wasn't overwhelmingly paid for by out-of-state donors, and whose demeanor doesn't suggest that of a nice, earnest person being pushed around by egos and agendas outside of his control. A wise move, I think. They have a representative which some actual local grounding, and not just a cause.
6) The American party process. A pretty strong victory, I think. The New York state GOP by-passed the primary process, and got slammed for it. A third party candidate rose to the mainstream. Energized voters forced the hand of party leaders. All positive signs of health, I think; the more third parties we have, the more responsive party leaders are obliged to be, the more people pay attention to political primaries, the better for American democracy.
So all in all, I'd say the real winner was the American voting public. There are ominous signs, of course, especially if you think the elimination of moderate Republicans is a matter of concern for the common good. But over all, we have solid candidate being elected after a genuinely competitive race. Not a bad result for an election day.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Let's run down the possibilities.