04 November 2009
Conservatives Lose 23rd District
At the midnight hour MSNBC is reporting that Doug Hoffman has conceded the race for the 23rd Congressional District of New York to Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate. This news surprises me, since I was reading on newspaper websites shortly before that Hoffman's supporters wanted to wait for a count of as many as 10,000 absentee ballots that might have tipped the balance in a close race. Instead, the great third-party adventure of 2009 is over, and the story has multiple morals. Opponents of the American Bipolarchy may take heart from the fact that Hoffman defied the decision of Republican county leaders in favor of an allegedly too liberal nominee and ran such a strong campaign as the Conservative candidate that the Republican ultimately suspended her own efforts. Opponents of movement conservatism as represented by Hoffman will note that the movement lost a district that had been reliably Republican for generations. The movement and the Republican constituency were not synonymous. On the other hand, the movement nearly won in its own right, but nearly may be as good as it gets in the 23rd, where we may have seen a realignment pitting the movement against all its enemies. Fear of the movement will benefit the Democratic party at least in the short term, since those who fear the movement will feel compelled to support Democrats as the only force strong enough to resist it. There'll be little pressure on the Democrats to do anything but not be movement conservatives, so dissatisfaction will persist but few will dare act on it due to fear of conservatives. This is the part where I should tell people not to fear movement conservatives so much that they feel obliged to settle for mediocrity and compromise instead of demanding real representation. But I also think people should fear the resurgence of movement conservatism and its attendant demons. The question for the future is whether we should vote according to our fears or according to our beliefs. We'll have occasions to come back to this question in the coming year.