Posted on 05-11-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The Washington Independent has an interesting read on the emerging right-wing narrative to explain away the embarassing loss in NY-23, particularly amusing since they had convinced themselves that the win was in the bag.

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Posted on 01-11-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The election in a couple of days will be interesting to watch.  A couple of days I ago I posted that it appeared that Dede Scozzafava was playing the good party soldier.  Now she has gone ahead and endorsed the Democrat Bill Owens.  While the attention in the election cycle in year following the Presidential election is generally focused on Virginia and New Jersey, all eyes will be on a congressional district in upstate New York.

Will Scozzafava’s supporters bother turning out?  Will they vote for her as a protest against a hard-right candidate from outside the district?  Will they fall in line like the Republican establishment and vote for Hoffman?  Will they gravitate towards Owens who may be closer to their ideological prism to begin with like the local paper which switched endorsements?  And how exactly will this quest for ideological purity help the Republican party cobble together a winning electoral coalition outside the South.  Frank Rich of the New York Times sounds off here.

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Posted on 31-10-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The official Republican candidate whose campaign is collapsing suspends her campaign for the good of the party, even though her opponents were willing to see the Democrat win instead of a so-called RINO.  It will be interesting to see how her supporters break out for the other two candidates or if they just stay at home.

UPDATE:  It appears that Scozzafava intentionally did not endorse Hoffman to prevent her disgusted moderate supporters from going to the Democrat and possibly avoiding Hoffman’s supporters from being upset if he praised her personally.  Lets see how they plays out and how much support Scozzafava actually draws at the polls next week.

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Posted on 29-10-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

An update on a previous post regarding the Republican civil war in upstate NY.  Buoyed by celebrity support Doug Hoffman is now surging and the official Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava is fading rapidly.  It is now a battle between the right wing conservative and the Democrat.  A Hoffman victory will cheer the Republican base but offers little comfort to moderates like Mark Kirk in Illinois who must not tack hard right in their primary and face a loss in the general election in their centrist states.

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Posted on 17-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

How did it come to this?  Health care reform hands by a slender thread based on the results of the Senate special election in Massachusetts to replace the Senator most associated with health care reform.  The election is a toss up with much of the energy in favor of Republican Scott Brown who could take down gaffe prone State Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Martha Coakley actively sought the Senate nomination after Ted Kennedy died, but having taken the nomination ran a curiously passive campaign.  This gave the opening to Scott Brown to define himself in positive terms and harness the resentment building up towards a self-entitled establishment politician.  Republicans winning statewide is not unknown in Massachusetts.  Deval Patrick’s election as governor in 2006, ended 16 years of Republican control of the office.  But since then, elected Republicans in Massachusetts have been fairly non-existent.

Health Care reform is the other 800 lb gorilla in the room.  Even though broad majorities of public opinion and a majority of the House and Senate support the public option (See link), the procedural rules of the Senate have ensured that it will not pass.  The resulting compromise pleases neither the left nor the right.  The question is whether the left will hold their noses and support this bill hoping to fix it down the road, just like the racial disparities in the original Social Security Act were corrected later.  Unhappiness at the existing bill likely drives some of the support for Brown.

Brown is an odd candidate for teabagger support. As a New England Republican he is a liberal by the standards of the national Republican rump.  The right wing which spurned a similar Republican in NY-23 (See link for previous posts) has embraced the opportunity to hand Barack Obama (as Senator DeMint of South Carolina put it) his Waterloo.  Given that he seems to back the universal health care plan in Massachusetts signed into law by Mitt Romney in 2006, his opposition to the national bill is somewhat puzzling and seems based on electoral calculations.

As Andrew Sullivan notes,  Democrats have to essentially hold their noses and vote for the rather unimpressive Coakley if they do not want the best chance for health care reform in a generation to slip through their fingers.  See Jonathan Chait’s review of the Democrats options in such an eventuality.  Another option the Democrats have is to force an up down vote on some of the more popular parts of the bill like prohibiting the use of pre-existing conditions to avoid issuing insurance policies, regulating the percentage of premiums that must be used for health care, etc.  Given the Republican strategy of filibustering everything, even items that later pass unanimously, it could give the Democrats talking points to carry into the fall against the party of No.

The biggest impact of a Brown win would be psychological.  Even though the number of Republican Congressmen retiring is still much higher than the number of retiring Democrats, the main stream media has already embraced the theme of Democrats abandoning a sinking ship.  A Brown win will raise that meme to a crescendo and by further depressing  Democratic turnout in November 2010 could make it a self fulfilling prophecy.

However, I am still not sold on Republican embrace of the tea baggers as a long term viable strategy.  Even though Brown has had some of these tendencies in in the past (like questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s birth) he has generally projected a moderate image in his campaign.  This was the strategy embraced by the successful Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey.  The fire and brimstone true believers who pejoratively refer to Republican moderates as RINOs (Republicans in name  only) have had a hard time winning outside the deep south.  Add to that the continuing Republican problem attracting minority voters.

Ultimately the Democratic Party brought this on themselves.  The foot dragging on the bill, corrupt bargains with grasping  Senators that had incredibly bad optics combined with the incredible incompetence of the Massachusetts Democrats have brought about the previously unthinkable possibility of Ted Kennedy’s successor being a Republican.  It further confirms this blogger’s belief in the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Posted on 02-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • Pakistan’s cautious response to the Obama speech and worries it will push the fighting into Pakistan itself.
  • Counting on the successful elections this weekend to break the country’s isolation, the Honduran parliament refuses to reinstate deposed President Zelaya.  My guess is that other than hot air coming from Caracas and its allies, they are probably right.
  • Jane Hamsher starts a rebellion on Obama’s left flank.  It could be a positive for the Democrats if it energizes their base for 2010.  But it could also turn into the nihilistic crusade of the sort that doomed the Republicans in NY-23 if this spins out control.
  • Elizabeth Warren warns about the disappearance of the middle class.
  • The White House claims executive privilege in preventing its social secretary from testifying before Congress in connection with the party crashing.  Administrations change, executive overreach and refusal to be held accountable does not.
  • Huckabee doubles down on his clemency decision for the teenager who eventually became a cop killer.  As noted in yesterday’s post it does not appear that his commutation order was unjustified by the facts at the time.  However, at least one person thinks he protests too much about the “disgusting” attacks.

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    Posted on 05-11-2009
    Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut
    • The Democrats may have won NY-23 for the first time in over 100 years, but the conservatives still somehow did not lose.
    • A panicked (formerly) moderate Mark Kirk of Illinois grovels before the right wing, to think I kind of liked this guy when I met him 8 years back.
    • Maybe he should be scared, designated Republican Party buffoon Michael Steele threatens moderates with dire unspecified retribution, and in vintage Steele fashion backtracks.
    • John Cole struggles to understand the math of the Republicans and the media pundits.
    • Someone in the media finally recognizes the Republican losing streak in special elections.
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    Posted on 04-11-2009
    Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

    An eventful off year election night.  Republicans take back the Virginia (expected) and New Jersey (closer) governors mansions.  Mayor Bloomberg in New York City has a tougher than expected re-election fight.  And in NY-23 the Democrat Bill Owens won a seat where the Democrats have not represented parts of the district for 159 years.

    A few thoughts on this election:

    – It is a lousy environment to  be an incumbent.

    – Local issues and the economy appear to have dominated and the polling suggests that the voters still approved of Obama but pulled the Republican lever.  But if the economic outlook does not improve next year, all bets are off.

    – The Democrats are not impressing voters, but the Republicans are in much worse shape.  Their brand is toxic and even in the Virginia blowout their candidate’s advertisement did not mention his affiliation.  If Democratic approval has declined since inauguration that for Republicans has tanked.

    –  While some conservatives may try to spin the Hoffman loss as a victory for “true” Republicans, Newt Gingrich was right.  You cannot create a governing coalition by insulting moderates and independents and catering just to the true believers.  Republicans and the Fox media machine have helped whip up a lot of inchoate nihilistic rage, but they have yet to present a reality based governing platform.  For now the few remaining moderates like Charlie Christ, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Mark Kirk will be the next targets for the right and the Democrats  will sit on the sideline and enjoy the sight of Republicans tearing each other down.

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    Posted on 28-10-2009
    Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

    A by-election in an upstate New York congressional seat has set off a furious battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.  Aided by New York’s unusual political setting the race for NY-23 could hint at the continuing irrelevance of the Republican Party or suggest that appealing to the core could lead to political revival.  It started when President Obama appointed the long serving congressman of NY-23 as Secretary of the Army.  The local party nominated Dede Scozzafava to replace him on the ballot.  However, her views on taxes, abortion, and same-sex marriage infuriated the true-believers.  The Republican candidates in New York generally also run on the New York Conservative Party ballot with the votes from each party line added to the candidates total.  A different Conservative Party nominee can take away votes from the Republican.

    The Conservatives responded by nominating the markedly more right wing Douglas L. Hoffman whose candidacy has eagerly been embraced by luminaries on the right wing fringe like Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Dick Armey  and Sarah Palin.  This has triggered a full scale mutiny from the base.  Even though the Republicans have held this district since the 1800s, Barack Obama carried it last fall.  Ergo its a classic swing district that could go Democratic depending on the candidate.  Pointing out that the Republican party with its current 20% identification needs to expand its reach has earned even former Speaker Newt Gingrich the derisive appellation R.I.N.O. (Republican In Name Only).  Even though the Club For Growth has dutifully trotted out a poll showing Mr. Hoffman leading, its methodology has been questioned.  At this point the likely result is an unexpected victory for Democrat Bill Owens.

    While the Republicans are likely to eat their own in the near future they must ponder if they wish to remain a regional party of white Southerners.  Gingrich is right.  To win a majority you have to appeal beyond your base.  At present the Republican Party is non-existent in New England, fading in the Midwest and struggling in the Southwest after alienating the Hispanic vote.  The Democratic takeover of the House was aided by choosing conservative Democrats in conservative districts (like Heath Shuler in North Carolina) or Senate seats (like Evan Bayh in Indiana).  Ideological purity becomes viable in a state or district aligned to the cause.  Which is why Joe Lieberman who would have probably been fine in Nebraska was given the boot by exasperated Connecticut Democrats (and won largely on Republican votes).  Sticking a hard right conservative in a moderate district appears to be a recipe for long term failure.  The right wing better keep its fingers crossed that Mr. Hoffman does not come in third as most polls indicate.

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