Sunday, November 1, 2009

Frank Rich: The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York

Rich gleefully argues (in very colorful language) that the national GOP's rush to endorse Hoffman is one more step in its "double-barreled suicide." Rich observes that the further to the right the GOP shifts, the more impotent it becomes for the 2010 elections.

While I have to agree with Rich that Hoffman would be a terrible representative for the 23rd (he truly knows none of the local issues), I can't be as excited about a GOP rightward shift. It may certainly help the Democrats in 2010, and perhaps beyond that. But these would ultimately be partisan victories. A real Democratic victory - the passage of a progressive agenda - would be best furthered by a more moderate GOP - not the 'Party of No' and Sarah Palin.


TJE said...

Or is it that Dede was a poor campaigner who couldn't raise money?

Shaan said...

You seem to be suggesting Hoffman was a good campaigner or fundraiser. I don't think that is the case.

Hoffman was empowered by national political forces - the Club for Growth, Palin, etc - because these groups abhorred Scozzafava's moderate Republicanism. Truly Hoffman is not outstanding in any way, not rhetorically, not ideologically, and not intellectually. The people going door-to-door for Hoffman are from the Susan B. Anthony List and other national political groups - carpetbaggers.

As Hoffman was empowered by national forces, I'd say its fair to say Scozzafava was destroyed by national forces. (Do I really need to show evidence of this?)

Do national forces have a legitimate role in congressional campaigns? Yes, but I still believe it is important for a candidate to be fluent in local issues. By this standard, Hoffman fails miserably. (See the Watertown Daily Times Editorial on Hoffman's visit to the newspaper - not only does he come off ignorant, but also petulant that the paper dared to ask him about local issues.)

I think there is a non-partisan barometer of a person's ability to represent a district, and that certainly factors in fluency in local issues. Of the three candidates, Scozzafava was certainly the most informed and opinionated on local issues - that is why the WDT endorsed her over Owens. Local newspapers - the Watertown Daily Times, the Syracuse Post-Standard, the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, among others - went out of their way to pan Hoffman's ignorance on local issues.

And with regard to more partisan measures, I think Hoffman is especially unsuited for the district. A crucial issue for the NY-23 is sustaining Fort Drum, a major job producer for the district that has risked closure in the past. When he was the district's representative, John McHugh (R) was dedicated to getting federal earmarks for the base. Hoffman has sworn off all earmarks (although some investigative reporting has revealed he was on the board of a hospital that got a federal earmark). This a nail in the coffin to the base and certainly will guarantee that the district remains in the rust belt for the next decade.

Hoffman supports the flat tax, which would certainly crush the district's economy. Hoffman is also vocal in his opposition to the stimulus (although when he was the accountant for the 1980 Olympic Games, NY State actually had to bail HIS organization out of $6M debt.)

I guess my point on highlighting these last few points is that the NY-23 is in such rough economic shape that is demands the support of federal funds. McHugh recognized this, and tried to stimulate the district's economy by investing in Fort Drum and green power, among other things. A candidate who swears off all federal assistance will send the area into the toilet. Hoffman risks that. I find this a reasonable way of concluding Hoffman was unsuited to the district.

TJE said...

I think she was destroyed by her own inept campaign and inability to raise money.

Shaan said...

Show me evidence of Hoffman's intrinsic strength.

I do not think Scozzafava was inherently weak. Her campaign was staffed by professionals. Did she wow Republicans nationally? No. But imagine if it were a two-man race. Scozzafava would have had the full support of the NRCC and you wouldn't have called Scozzafava a weak campaigner or ineffective at raising money because she, like Owens, would have been raising their money exclusively through the NRCC and the DCCC, respectively. In this situation, Scozzafava and Owens would've been financial equals.

Scozzafava was destroyed because a third-party candidate went to the right of her and gained national support.

Now, an important question is did national groups support Hoffman or did Hoffman get national groups to support him? If the latter, then, yes, Hoffman did run a better campaign. But I don't think there is any evidence of this.

But all of this runs far away from my original point, which was, simply, that Hoffman is not 'right' for the district.

TJE said...

I know nothing about Hoffman. I am simply stating that Dede turned out to be a weak candidate who couldn't raise money. Don't see a great conspiracy here.

Eddie A said...

I agree. Dede was a weak candidate and the reason she turned out to be a poor campaigner, not to mention her funding problem, was because she couldn't gain the national support like Hoffman because she tried to steer her boat in two different (and opposing) directions. Perfect example: Just hours after suspending her campaign for the NY-23 seat, she endorses the Democratic candidate. Smart move, Dede. You've not only ended your run for NY-23 but entirely ruined your credibility and any chance you've ever had at winning endorsements. Good luck getting national GOP support after stabbing your own party in the back. You can't blame her demise on "national forces" when she abandons those national forces that could have helped her to win.

Also, I think the voters of NY's 23rd District will decide who is "right" to serve as their representative. If Hoffman is so unfit, why are his numbers surging in the polls? And what makes Owens such a spectacular candidate? He's never held an elected office in his career and his views are not aligned with the constituents of the 23rd district.

Evan said...

I almost hope Hoffman wins so the GOP goes full wingnut-crazy for 2010.

That'll be entertaining.

Shaan said...

Again, I make the distinction between a candidate being him or herself a good campaigner and fundraiser and a candidate being empowered by national party movements.

Perhaps you think I am splitting hairs, but ultimately, the distinction I am making is a candidate's ability to bring money into his or her own campaign, to garner votes for him or herself; and for money to be pressed into a candidate's hands, and for votes to be won in that way.

With this frame of analysis, it is more difficult to simply dismiss Scozzafava's campaign and her fundraising ability out of hand.

And, again, I believe the distinction I made between Hoffman being able to gain his own endorsements and for endorsements to fall into his laps important. We're not arguing successful candidates, but "good" candidates. A "good" candidate would win endorsements; a "poor" candidate would get endorsed.

I don't see any evidence that Hoffman won endorsements, he was simply endorsed. Now, is there still an argument that Hoffman is a good candidate because he was able to gauge the political winds and recognize that there were votes to win if he went to the right of the moderate Republican candidate? Yes, but I find evidence for this theory mostly thin.

Did Scozzafava ruin her political 'credibility' by endorsing Owens? No, on the contrary, I believe a very strong argument could be made that she has reinforced her's with this endorsement. Throughout this campaign she trumpeted that she was an independent voice who as congressman would do what she thought best for the district, politics be damned. This is simply more evidence of her sticking with that credo. In fact, I applaud her for her endorsement - it shows she truly is principled.

Has Scozzafava ruined her ability to run for national office because of her endorsement? Maybe, maybe not. Scozzafava in the last few weeks was intentionally vague in regards to her plans to stay with the Republican Party if she had to run again for Congress in 2010. She could pull a Specter and run on as a Democrat.

Why have Hoffman's poll numbers risen so dramatically considering he is unfit? That is a very good question. But I stand by my point that Hoffman's views do not square with the 23rd, and that he would be a poor representative of the 23rd.

I think it is interesting that you attack Owens (whom I never mentioned) by saying, "[Owens has] never held an elected office in his career and his views are not aligned with the constituents of the 23rd district."

The EXACT same statement could be said of Hoffman. Hoffman has never held elected office, and his views are not aligned with the 23rd's. Furthermore, Hoffman does not even live IN the 23rd district.

But, since you asked, I may as well state why I believe Owens would be a superior representative for the people of the 23rd congressional district.

1. Owens has pledged to protect and maintain Fort Drum with the use of federal earmarks. This is important due to military base's place in the North Country's economy and because it would follow in the footsteps of John McHugh, the district's previous representative. Compare this to Hoffman, who has renounced earmarks and would endanger the base.

2. Owens is concerned with growing business in the North Country. Owens envisions a future of green jobs in the North Country, and would fight to give the 23rd every advantage in realizing such a future. This is an extremely important issue. The North Country, as I am sure you are aware, is in dire straits economically. Many people are forced to leave the area for work elsewhere. Now compare Owens' willingness to fight for every North Country job to Hoffman's principled but ultimately disastrous belief in balanced check books. Hoffman supports a fair tax, etc etc etc - I see no way that Hoffman's economic policies would help the 23rd.

3. Owens is a social moderate, which better reflects the views of the NY-23 then the completely ass-backwardness of Hoffman's views.

Yeah - I've forgotten where I was going.... But vote Democratic Tuesday!

Shaan said...

An interesting article: 95 percent of Hoffman's money comes from outside the NY-23. Sadly the article doesn't do the same analysis for Owens.