‘Conservascreamers’ hurting GOP image

Published 10:23 am Friday, November 6, 2009

In the now famous New York 23rd Congressional District there was an in-term election this past Tuesday and the winner was the highly unlikely Democrat, Bill Owens.

Owens ran on a campaign in support of President Obama’s agenda including health care reform and the “public option” within that reform.

But Owens also ran on the local issues to the district that mattered to the voters in upper, rural N.Y.

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Opposing Owens, originally at least, was a Republican nominee, selected without the benefit of a primary. This turned out to be a problem when some of the more socially conservative in the party decided that Dede Scozzafava was just not conservative enough. Scozzafava supported abortions rights and gay rights.

So enters Doug Hoffman into the election, running on a Conservative Party platform. Given the level of distrust voters currently have for both political parties it is not so very surprising that a third party candidate would appear, and Hoffman filled a perceived void by his candidacy, providing the voters a left of center candidate, a moderate candidate, and a right wing candidate.

All of this could have been good news for the voters in upstate NY had the election simply gone forward and the voters decided who would represent them. But that was not to be. Instead several right wing political figures inserted themselves in this local election, including Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and others who represent the powerful right wing of the Republican Party.

These folks decided to use New York’s 23rd District election to show the power of what they called conservatism to win elections. Having pushed the moderate Sen. Arlin Spector from the Republican Party they were just waiting for another opportunity to, well, purge the party of its other impurities.

It might have worked had their perceptions of who they are and what they represent not been deeply flawed. After all, almost 40 percent of Americans see themselves as conservative people, almost double the number that self identify as liberals. So it might seem that pushing the out-of-power party to the political right would be a smart move to re-gain power.

The plan had two fatal flaws. The first flaw was that their candidate, Doug Hoffman, ran on national issues instead of local issues.

And, while that made for good headlines about the upcoming “war” within the Republican Party, it ignored the wise old advice that “all politics are local.”

In fact, it looked like the strategy was working when Scozzafava saw her support fall rapidly and was forced to withdraw from the election. In one surprise move though, she threw her support to the Democrat, Owens.

The second flaw was more fundamental. Palin, a Deather by her own admission, and many of the other far right supporters of Hoffman, were not really conservatives at all.

Instead, as a group, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Palin et al are known more for their extremism than for their fiscal sense. Limbaugh called Justice Sotomayor a racist; Beck calls the President a racist, socialist, communist; Hannity simply screams that all things Obama are wrong and dishonest.

These supporters are more suited to the mold of the Tea Party folks than of true conservatism, more Screamers than thinkers, more extreme than reasonable.

They are little more than “Conservascreamers, destined to divide their party.

So they did what they do best … they proceeded to “Ready, Fire, Aim…” and lost the House seat to the Democrats for the first time since the Civil War.

And then they claimed victory.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.