Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New York Special Election Reevaluated


The Republican nominee has now withdrawn, and in a twist, has decided to back the Democratic nominee. I’m not sure who will win on election day. But I have reevaluated the opinion I expressed in an earlier post about this race.

I thought that the move by conservative leaders to move against a moderate was misguided at best. And that would be true in most circumstances, but it isn’t necessarily here. In the Senate, I would say this sort of action is almost always bad. Especially now when the Democrats theoretically have a filibuster-proof majority. A Republican who votes with her party some of the time and still caucuses with it is a net asset.

But in the House, each vote becomes marginally less important, since there are more members. One more seat would not make it any easier for Republicans to pass legislation. And it would still be unlikely for them to be able to stymie President Obama’s initiatives.

Moreover, remember that this is a special election. Whoever’s elected will only be in Congress for a year before the next election. So I think there’s value for the Republican Party in sending a message that a person has to toe the party line on certain issues to get party support.

Now let me add several caveats. First, as I said before, the Republicans shouldn’t even think about doing this in the Senate right now. Second, Republicans should not do this in a truly moderate district. In one that’s split 50-50, they should allow for some deviation on certain issues to maximize chances of electing a Republican. Third, it’s probably best not to do this in a regular election law, when these things get more media coverage. Other voters in other parts of the country could gain a more negative impression of the Republican Party as being hostile to moderates. But in a special election like this, most voters nationally aren’t paying attention.

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