Election Results energize Republicans

Alex Potter

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For weeks, New York’s 23rd district was the center of national attention. Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Joe Biden squared off for the votes of this rural district bordering Canada in a contest that was hailed to be a referendum on Obama’s policies and on whether the Republican party should move to the center or Right.

In a circus of an election, the liberal Republican Scozzafava withdrew after a thorough haranguing in the national conservative media for her pro-abortion, pro-stimulus package positions. Scozzafava backed the Democrat, Bill Owens, against the Conservative Party candidate Bill Hoffman.

Hoffman energized the conservative base of the nation in a fight not only against the Democrats and Obama, but even more for power within the Republican party. The message conservatives wanted to send is clear: We don’t need the Republican party, they need us.

The results were in yesterday, though as often seems to be the case in recent American politics this race could end up in the courts. Separated by less then a thousand votes with 88 percent of precincts reports and a flurry of absentee ballots on their way, it could be a long wait to know the undisputed winner.

The spin-centers are already throwing out their interpretations of the results. Some declare it a conservative victory even if Hoffman loses, since he stood toe-to-toe against Democrats and liberal Republicans and at least almost won.

Others, however, are seeing it as a dangerous sign that the Republican Party will become an unwelcome place for moderates and argue that this kind of ideological purity movement will make it impossible to win in most areas of the country.

A particularly insightful article by Nate Silver on CNN.com argues that the defeat of Hoffman shows that, indeed, all politics are local. Hoffman has few roots in the 23rd district and 95 percent of his campaign funds came from organizations outside the district. He was more the candidate of the national conservative movement then of New York’s 23rd. Even though the 23rd has not elected a Democratic congressman in 16 years, the fact that Hoffman was an outsider may have been his undoing.

Yet, lets look at the 23rd in the context of everything that happened on Tuesday. Maine’s same-sex marriage law was repealed by popular referendum, “despite far more money, ground troops and political support” (NYT) for the pro-same-sex marriage side.

This vote is incredibly significant, because in almost every state same-sex partnerships have been legalized either by legislative or judicial means. Maine (and California’s Prop. 8) indicates that when this issue is put directly to voters, the trend is overwhelmingly conservative.

Republicans won the gubernatorial races in both Virginia and New Jersey, though national media has argued that local issues heavily defined these races and that both states show high levels of support for Obama. However, we cannot underestimate the psychological effect for the Republican party of an (almost) across the board sweep of the elections on Tuesday.

After yesterday’s successes and continually dismal economic reports, look forward to a revitalized conservative movement and Republican Party going into the midterm elections next fall.