Monday, November 02, 2009

The 23rd bellwether

The talking heads have been giving the special election in New York’s 23rd district a lot of attention over the past few weeks. But while some might want to write off all this as mere hype, I actually think a lot of them are right about the importance of this election. More so even than many of them acknowledge.

Ever since I first heard about this election between moderate Democrat Bill Owens, left-leaning Republican Dede Scozzafava, and right-wing Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman, I knew this race and its outcome had the potential to forecast the political future in this country over the next several years.

The district is solidly Republican, yet here we had a Republican that was getting criticized for being too liberal, and a Conservative party candidate being endorsed by the conservative-wing of the Republican party.

Specifically, ever true to her 3rd party-leaning, rogue conservative populist persona and ex-governor Sarah Palin supports the Conservative party candidate. Thrice-married, recently converted Catholic adulterous hypocrite Newt Gingrich supported Ms. Scozzafava until she dropped out of the race two days ago. Apparently it is now a real toss-up between the Democrat and the Conservative party candidate, though polls indicate the Conservative party candidate has a 5-point lead.

This is important because it is yet another example of the Republican party moving ever to the right. For several years now one after another after another moderate Republican has been essentially forced out of the party, replaced by hard-right conservatives eager to make everything about guns, god, gays and abortion.

Add to the new litmus test list not only social conservatism but fiscal conservatism. The neo-(as in new)conservative movement demands tax cuts for everyone (especially the ‘overburdened rich’), slashed government spending (except endless wars & missile defense shields), ending entitlement programs (except Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment benefits, etc.), no more bailouts for the rich & shameless (and no regulating them or capping their multi-million $$$ bonus checks either), free-markets solve all the world’s financial problems (except all that free-trade that stole most of our jobs).

All of this, to me, spells disaster for the country’s political system. By the Republicans boiling themselves down to such a hyper-partisan, hyper-ideological, ultra-right-wing, exceedingly militant minority they are pushing moderates toward the Democratic party and setting themselves up for a lot more election losses.

Now if I had my way, I’d take George Washington’s advice and we wouldn’t even have political parties in this country. Run the issues, to hell with party affiliations and toeing partisan lines. But the only thing worse than having two incompetent parties is having one efficient one. Let's not forget the axiom that when it comes to government, only dictatorships are truly efficient.

So why shouldn’t a guy that leans left welcome more Republican losses and more Democrats in office?
For one, there are a lot of issues Democrats push that I am not in favor of. I’m not a socialist. I don’t like this paternalist view that so many liberals cling to in regards to the government, not one damn bit. The trend has been going this way for years and there is much, much more coming.

Two, there are a hell of a lot of corrupt Democrats in office. Unopposed, they can and do a lot of serious damage in this country. Look to a lot of those districts where the same candidate or at the very least the same party wins every election and you’d see what I mean. Some might recall Republican Tom DeLay and his gerrymandering in Texas. You don’t have to fear the ire of the voting public when you’ve got re-election in the bag, as so many do.

A third reason I don’t welcome a Democratic super-majority, is the marketplace of ideas. Most people have learned first-hand that the best solutions have come from several people with different perspectives brainstorming ideas. Groupthink doesn’t accomplish innovation.

And I must add one more reason I’d rather not see the GOP become the American party of fascism — they might win. Seriously. I’m the first to admit this is NOT a left-wing country, it’s right-of-center. Not right-wing, but right-of-center. However, this is also a country that tends to swing back and forth between extremes.

I can already see the backlash building as Democrats overreach, pushing ‘liberal’ (re: socialist) agendas that not only conservatives but moderates don’t want any part of. These people are going to chose ‘the alternative’.

Entertain in your mind the prospect of President Sarah Palin… I’d leave the fucking country! Don’t think this could ever happen? If Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman loses in the 23rd district tomorrow, then you may well be right. If he wins, then the prospect of some über-right-wing nutcase with a weak intellect and abysmal grasp of both domestic and foreign policies could very easily be our next president — if the conditions were right.

What ifs? If unemployment continues to go up (likely), if the middle-class continues to shrink (certain), if government continues to expand (certain), if Democrats continue to overreach and become embroiled in scandal (a given), then it is all too likely that more right-wing conservatives spouting ‘the alternative’ will win future elections. This can have a cumulative effect, shifting the zeitgeist of a nation just as we have seen so many times before. 

If this were to happen and the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan continued to deteriorate (easily possible), if there were a major terrorist attack in this country (seemingly inevitable), an extremist could very easily win a presidential election in the foreseeable future.

This is why I find tomorrow’s race in the 23rd district so important. To me it’s a bellwether. If Doug Hoffman wins then ultra-conservatives will be more motivated than ever to keep pushing their fascist agendas and the GOP will take notice. This could spur more moderate Republicans to be pushed aside for right-wingers. Hello, domino-effect™.

Now, if Doug Hoffman loses, it won’t necessarily mean that the GOP is going to start pushing back against the hard-right conservative kernel that is trying to hijack the party, but it may well start that trend. And a more sensible Republican party which could give the Democrats some legitimate competition is something we could all benefit from.

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