24 May 2011
NY26: Medicare referendum or Tea Party sabotage?
The news media has called the special election in New York's 26th congressional district for the Democratic candidate in a heavily Republican territory. This story shows that the Democrat will have won the seat formerly held by the disgraced Chris Lee by a plurality, while 8% of the vote went to Jack Davis, a self-proclaimed "Tea Party" candidate who was repudiated by many TPs. Since Davis had been a Democrat in the past, many observers presumed conspiratorially that he was still aiding the Democracy now, despite his populist protest against the trade policies of both major parties. In defeat, Republicans attribute the result entirely to this interloper, dismissing Democratic claims that the election was a telling repudiation of Republican plans to reform the Medicare system. As more exit polls are released, something like truth might emerge. I'll be particularly interested in the opinions of those who voted for Davis. If they claim to be alarmed by the Republicans' Medicare plans, I'd be more willing to believe the Democratic spin on the election, because it would show that people besides committed Democrats had taken alarm. If the TP voters simply took a "more conservative" stance, or agreed with their candidates' populism, there's still a lesson to be learned by the major parties, or by future independent candidates. Eight percent might be a good start for a movement or a dead end, depending on people's expectations for the present and the future. Whether or not the candidate was to be taken seriously, the turnout should be.