Posted by: Nate Nelson | November 2, 2009

It’s Not a Purge

The conventional wisdom is that the conservative push to elect Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 special election, which forced GOP candidate Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava out of the race, is a “purge” of the Republican Party. Scozzafava has been branded a “moderate” by Democrats, the mainstream media, and even some Republicans. She is being equated with actual GOP moderates like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, et al., and many are arguing that she was only unacceptable to conservatives because of her liberal views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Conventional wisdom or not, Scozzafava is not a “moderate” and most of those who so vocally opposed her candidacy are not trying to purge legitimate moderates from the Republican Party.

It’s true that Scozzafava is pro-choice and that she favors same-sex marriage, and it’s also true that these views are unpopular with many conservatives. Yet if these were the only points of dispute between Scozzafava and conservatives, she would likely have been labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by a few bloggers and that would have been that. Nobody with 2012 aspirations would have bucked the establishment and endorsed a third party candidate over a couple of social issues. If that were the case, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins would have been ousted a long time ago.

The problem for conservatives was not that Scozzafava is a moderate, but that she is a liberal. She has enjoyed the backing of ACORN and was once on the liberal Working Families Party line. She was endorsed by New York’s largest labor union, the New York State United Teachers. That’s probably because she supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow for the formation of a labor union through card check rather than secret ballot.

The list goes on and on. She supported the Obama stimulus plan and she refused until very late in the campaign to sign a pledge against raising taxes. Scozzafava certainly wasn’t a social conservative, but she was by no means a fiscal conservative either. Why would the conservative base of the Republican Party be expected to support a candidate chosen by a few county party chairs who does not share any of their fiscal or social principles? The “R” after her name can’t possibly be the only criterion by which she is judged to be a suitable candidate.

Even leaving all that aside, how could conservatives be sure that Scozzafava would be that vote for John Boehner that seemed so important to her establishment backers? It was widely speculated — not only by conservatives, but by liberals — that, once elected, Scozzafava would defect to the Democratic Party. After all, how could she hope to win a Republican primary in a district that is generally fairly conservative? It seems to me that Scozzafava’s endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens only confirms that conservatives were right to be concerned that she would switch parties once elected.

But you know, I didn’t really need to say anything I just said. Really. The entire blog post was unnecessary. I can just let Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, do the talking:

Club for Growth darling Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party line, and has even garnered the endorsement of Fred Thompson. The guy has legitimate traction, fueled by the fact that Dede Scozzafava, the Republican, is actually the most liberal candidate in the race. (Heck, she has run on the very liberal Working Families Party ballot line in the past.)

Sure, she is a Republican, and opposes the public option. But she’s been willing to raise taxes when budgets require it, and is to the left of most Democrats on social issues (including supporting gay marriage). . . .

All emphasis is mine. Did you get that? Moulitsas believed that Scozzafava was “the most liberal candidate in the race” — not only to the left of Hoffman, but also Owens, who Moulitsas derided as “a Lieberdem Blue Dog.” Moulitsas, who has participated in actual purges of the Democratic Party to get rid of candidates who weren’t ideologically pure enough, endorsed Scozzafava over Democrat Bill Owens.

If Scozzafava was ideologically pure enough for Markos Moulitsas, is it any wonder that conservatives opposed her candidacy and went third party? The question is why the Republican establishment was comfortable with a candidate who once ran as the Working Families Party candidate and had Moulitsas’ endorsement. $900,000 to elect a candidate liberal enough for Daily Kos? Sure, it’s bad that she took their money and endorsed the Democrat. But it could have been worse. She could have taken their money and voted for Nancy Pelosi. Conservatives prevented that, and congratulations to them for not seeing conservative money wasted on a woman who in all likelihood would have voted to keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

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