[Disclosure: I worked with the Doug Hoffman campaign. However, the views here are my own. I have not discussed this at all with the Hoffman campaign.]
The bottom line on NY-23:
- Doug Hoffman just won the Republican Primary. The general election is next year.
- There are two broken, corrupt, arrogant political parties we need to defeat. We beat the Republican establishment in 2009. We'll beat the Democratic Party in 2010.
- NY-23 is not really about Conservatives VS Moderates. It is about the Establishment VS the Movement.
What happened in NY-23:
For years, the conventional wisdom has been that blue state Republicans had to nominate a "not too hot, not too cold" candidate - what my friend Max Borders called a Keynesian political strategy of tweaking the policy variables until you get a candidate whose positions seem most appealing to the most people. Like Keynesian economic tinkering, it all works very well....until some fundamental shift reveals the underlying artificiality, and it all falls apart.
Political parties gain power by standing for something appealing. But when a party gains power, it loses definition. Rather than standing for something appealing and well-defined, they try to stand for anything appealing enough to win. But you can only tinker so much before you destroy the brand that people had elected, and then you become the minority again.
The minority is where Parties and movements go to be reborn. There, they have to figure out who they are, and what their mission is. You can't storm the castle until you're all facing the same direction and focused on the same goals. Sometimes - as in NY-23 - that involves telling the establishment "Thank you, but our mission is in another castle" (If I might borrow political wisdom from Super Mario Bros).
The establishment GOP - the NY GOP, the NRCC, the RNC and a few prominent Republicans - got behind another establishment GOP type in Dede Scozzafava. In any other recent year, she would have sailed through. Not in 2009.
The public - including moderates, libertarians and alienated Republicans - has grown much more nervous about Democratic governance. The Tea Party movement is just one manifestation of the sparks that are flying, but it goes far deeper than that, and the establishment GOP has been oblivious to, or dismissive of, these sparks. With Dede Scozzafava, the establishment Republican Party threw gasoline on top of the sparks and a brushfire erupted. The result was the quintessential "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" campaign of Doug Hoffman.
What NY-23 Is About
The story of NY-23 is not "conservatives beat moderates" or "conservative loses to Democrat".
The story of NY-23 is "the Right starts dismantling the Republican establishment." This is about how the Republican Party is defined and who defines it.
Right now, the movement wants the Republican Party to be defined by opposition to big government. Gradually, as new leaders arise, we will demand that the Republican Party be defined by its own solutions, as well, but rebuilding is an incremental process. We can hammer out the policy agenda and the boundaries of the coalition later.
For now, our job is to disrupt the establishment GOP. If we beat Democrats while we're at it, great. But the first priority is to fix the Drunk Party - the Living Dead establishment Republicans. They're history. They just don't know it yet.
NY-23 was the first shot in that war. It was a direct hit. Next year, we start storming the castle.