NY-23 election yesterday a bit reminiscent of the Reform Party in Canada in the 1990s

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yesterday a number of elections were held throughout the United States, including:

-A gubernatorial election in Virginia (Republican win)
-A gubernatorial election in New Jersey (Republican win)
-A race in California (Democrat win)
-A race in New York, NY-23.

The gubernatorial election in Virginia is one for Democrats to be sad about since it was a clear battle between two potential governors and their candidate clearly lost. The one in New Jersey was between two pretty unsavory candidates so there isn't much to cheer about either way. The one in California was a district the GOP didn't even try to win so no surprise there, but NY-23 is particularly interesting as it involved a vote split that didn't need to happen, resulting in the first Democrat to represent the district since the 19th century.

This vote splitting was part of the reason the Liberal Party of Canada was able to attain so many majorities during the 1990s, as it was just on the cusp of an era where the Progressive Conservatives were punished by the voters and the Reform Party had just become a major party, leaving a split in the vote on the right resulting in many Liberal candidates getting elected without achieving a majority of the vote.

The difference, of course, is that the Reform Party of the 1990s was founded by a man with a pretty impressive ideological vision (Preston Manning) that began while conservatives were in power, while the current one in the US didn't happen until the election of 2008 when all of a sudden the GOP remembered the value of a balanced budget. The former is thus intellectually consistent, the latter is not. Ron Paul supporters have always been consistent, mind you (and Preston Manning resembles Ron Paul quite a bit), but during the primaries in 2008 the GOP made sure to oppose and deride Ron Paul supporters at every turn while trumpeting candidates that had no problem with unbalanced budgets and needless foreign adventures so no points for them.


It's because of this split that the media narrative over these elections is a bit puzzling. Scan the headlines of most papers and the headlines referring to the elections are something along the lines of "It's not 2008 anymore!" "Obama magic is gone!" "Obama is now mortal!" when gubernatorial elections really have little to do with who happens to be president. California has a Republican governor, so does Hawaii. Mitt Romney enacted universal health care when he was governor of Massachusetts. Governors respond to the needs of their constituents far more than any ideological concerns of their own, and this makes the party balance among governors far less relevant than that in Congress.

Compare for example the electoral college vote from last year:



to the party balance among governors.



There really is little correlation between the two.
Back to the vote split: since neither side is backing down, there is little reason to suspect that this won't happen again. Conservative populists (so-called teabaggers) are trying to put a brave face on the loss by saying that at least a RINO (Republican in name only) didn't get voted in, but it really isn't good news - if it was, then they should be really happy if next year the same thing happens in a few dozen districts instead of just one.

There is also a large danger in supporting one candidate during a primary over another, one of which may seem to be more politically palatable but has a much lower chance of winning in a general election.

Of course, election defeats can be avoided simply by supporting a candidate that actually knows a thing or two about local issues. That might be something to think about next time.

5 comments:

Vince Driver said...

It seems like you are crediting those who split with the republican party as Ron Paul supporters, when really it seems like they're just reactionaries and extreme social conservatives, though I'm sure a few Paul people in there.

Good call on the poor media coverage though.

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

>It seems like you are crediting those who split with the republican party as Ron Paul supporters, when really it seems like they're just reactionaries and extreme social conservatives

I was actually making the same point as what you've written here. The Ron Paul supporters were marginalized until November 2008 when all of a sudden the GOP remembered that they were against spending more money than tax revenues bring in. It's actually quite sad when you compare this to the Tea Party in 2007, which was a positive and 100% grassroots event, and nothing to do with calling Obama or anyone else Hitler.

Larry West said...

By the way, the latest polls in Kentucky have Rand Paul (Ron Paul's son) ahead by 3% against the Republican-establishment candidate (the Secretary of State) for the United States Senate. He even ties the leader (the Lt. Governor) among the Democrats in a Fall matchup.

The Republican Party is slowly admitting that in this entire decade, it hasn't acted like the Republican Party (smaller government, less taxes, etc.), and that is why it lost in 2008.

In regards to NY-23, had Hoffman actually lived in the district (under the US Constitution, a candidate just has to be in the state on election day to run) I think he would have won.

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

>It seems like you are crediting those who split with the republican party as Ron Paul supporters, when really it seems like they're just reactionaries and extreme social conservatives

I was actually making the same point as what you've written here. The Ron Paul supporters were marginalized until November 2008 when all of a sudden the GOP remembered that they were against spending more money than tax revenues bring in. It's actually quite sad when you compare this to the Tea Party in 2007, which was a positive and 100% grassroots event, and nothing to do with calling Obama or anyone else Hitler.

Vince Driver said...

It seems like you are crediting those who split with the republican party as Ron Paul supporters, when really it seems like they're just reactionaries and extreme social conservatives, though I'm sure a few Paul people in there.

Good call on the poor media coverage though.

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