Nov 6, 2009

Election Round-up Part Two: Eclectic Boogaloo

Ah, politics. It seems that we have gotten so political lately that we can’t even give the time of day without spinning it. But as they say, spin makes the world go ‘round.

If we ever find our equilibrium, we would be able to see that the off-year elections on Tuesday, while a big win for Republicans, were not necessarily a big loss for Democrats. It is easy to forget that while pundits are telling us that the GOP is making a big comeback, the Democratic Party just got two more votes in the House of Representatives.

Especially worthy of note is the election of Democrat Bill Owens to represent the 23rd district in New York. The Republican candidate in the district, Dierdre Scozzafava, became a target for ruthless and defamatory attacks from the far right wing of the party for some of her moderate social positions, in particular her stances on abortion and gay rights.

National figures on the right put their support behind Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who embraced far right positions against freedom of choice for women over their bodies and equality of rights for gay people. Hoffman enjoyed prominent endorsements from Sarah Palin and right-wing radio commentators, support from the tea-bagging movement, and the backing of the conservative Club for Growth.

Faced with the betrayal of her own party, Scozzafava dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat, who ended up winning and increasing the Democratic majority in Congress. He is the first Democrat to represent the district in over a century.

It is absolutely true that the governorships won by the GOP this year are far more prestigious than a House seat. Governors serve as state leaders for their respective parties and provide local, state, and national candidates another figure to campaign and raise funds with.

It is also true that statewide elections serve as better harbingers for senatorial and presidential elections, which also take place on a state-by-state basis. If Virginia is now a red state then Obama’s potential margin in 2012 becomes thinner. There is no denying or downplaying the importance of the Republican Party’s victories.

However, in 2010 the Democrats are going to need a list of accomplishments to run with in order to maintain or extend their majorities in both houses of Congress. Having two more members in the House of Representatives to get legislation through certainly won’t hurt their prospects, and in the short term could render more positive political results than the governors’ mansions in Virginia and New Jersey.

Democrats shouldn't be celebrating.

The split vote in NY-23 does suggest a deepening rift in the Republican Party, and that the more radically conservative wing might cause the party to shed more moderate and independent voters. However, the Democratic congressional wins on Tuesday occurred in New York and California, hardly states where the party needs to rely on moderate independents for electoral votes - and the Democratic losses in Virginia and New Jersey suggest that some moderates and independents have changed their allegiances towards Republicans over the past year.

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