The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York.
That’s the headline of Frank Rich’s column which ran in the New York Times today. Now, I’m not going to belabor the point and rattle on about how outrageous Rich’s sentiments are because pretty much everything written under Rich’s byline is nasty and ill conceived. But this take of his on the NY-23 congressional race seems pretty popular right now so I thought I’d examine it for a moment.
The New York fracas was ignited by the routine decision of 11 local Republican county chairmen to anoint an assemblywoman, Dede Scozzafava, as their party’s nominee for the vacant seat. The 23rd is in safe Republican territory that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in decades…Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode. They drove out Arlen Specter, and now want to “melt Snowe” (as the blog Red State put it). The same Republicans who once deplored Democrats for refusing to let an anti-abortion dissident, Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, speak at the 1992 Clinton convention now routinely banish any dissenters in their own camp.
Here’s the thing. Casey was shunned by the powerful smoke-filled-room set while being backed by many actual people who voted for him. Casey’s shunning was a top down power move against pro-lifers in the Democratic Party who were forced to take it.
Similarly, Scozzafava’s endorsement was also by the smoke-filled room contingent but this time of the GOP. But this time the people actually said “No way.” The people had their say. And the people won.
So instead of this being some kind of Stalinist power smash I think this should be seen as the exact oppositte of Stalinist. This was a power-to-the-people moment with the people winning out over the party powerful.
And let’s be clear. Scozzafava is already being heralded as a victim in many media stories. But she wasn’t pushed out of the Republican Party. She fell behind in the polls and bailed because she didn’t see any way to gain power. This should seem a familiar scenario for those keeping score at home because that’s exactly the same story as Rich’s other supposed victim Arlen Specter. Specter was perennially embraced by the powers that be of the GOP much like Scozzafava. It was only when his polling went south that he left the party and embraced the Democrats.
In the end, I honestly don’t know how this whole thing turns out. Will there be a serious pro-life, fiscally conservative third party? Maybe. If the GOP doesn’t stop embracing the Scozzafavas and Specters it might just be time for some more power-to-the-people moments.