Monday, November 02, 2009

Scozzafava endorses Owens, rejects Republican extremism

As most of you who follow this sort of thing have surely heard by now, Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, the Republican who dropped out of the House race in NY-23 yesterday, has endorsed not the Conservative (and new Republican) candidate, Doug Hoffman, but the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.

Given that Scozzafava is a moderate who supports abortion rights and gay rights, and that Owens is the flavour of the day of the far right, and that the Republican Party, Scozzafava's party, is moving further and further to the right, and that the right, including many in the Republican establishment, backed Hoffman all along, this is hardly all that surprising. Still, it's yet another sign of what has happened to the GOP, and of where it is headed.

From Scozzafava's statement:

In Bill Owens, I see a sense of duty and integrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship. He will be an independent voice devoted to doing what is right for New York. Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.

Please join me in voting for Bill Owens on Tuesday. To address the tough challenges ahead, we must rise above partisanship and politics and work together. There's too much at stake in this election to do otherwise.

How very sensible, and how very admirable. Hoffman, and the right-wing support for Hoffman, isn't about representing the interests of the constituents of New York's 23rd Congressional District, it's about taking control of the GOP, about pushing a right-wing ideology that is well outside the American mainstream. Scozzafava knows that -- and she, the Republican nominee (let us not forget that), has rejected it.

Needless to say, the right is beside itself -- and is lashing out. "This afternoon Dede Scozzafava betrayed the GOP," said top Hoffman advisor Rob Ryan. Actually, no. Scozzafava is a Republican and was happy to run as a Republican. If there was betrayal, it was by those on the right who attacked her and launched Hoffman's insurgent candidacy. More generally, I would add, it's been conservatives who have betrayed what was once the leading spirit of the Republican Party, a party that used to welcome liberals and moderates in its fairly big tent. That tent has shrunk to a narrow sliver on the spectrum, the purge for ideological purification continues, and Republicans like Scozzafava, who is the right sort of Republican for NY-23 and the Northeast generally, have gotten the message. Some, like Arlen Specter, have switched sides. Others have simply dropped out or given up altogether.

(Note that, among other things, Hoffman would appear to be the Glenn Beck candidate in the race. And check out his list of right-wing supporters, including James Dobson and Sarah Palin, as well as supposed GOP mainstreamers like George Pataki and Tim Pawlenty.)

As I tweeted this afternoon, Scozzafava's endorsement may not be enough for Owens to overcome the boost that Hoffman is likely to get now that he's the Republican candidate. Still, one hopes that other moderates will follow her lead and reject the extremism that has taken hold of the Republican Party. There is more than enough room on the other side.

(For more reaction, check out Memeorandum.)

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