Purge Here, Purge Now, Get Less Votes

The GOP continues its death spiral. Not content with sidelining Scozzafava and losing a seat it held since the Civil War, the GOP leadership is now considering stripping Dede of her leadership position. Nothing says Big Tent like a good old fashioned purge!

I am sympathetic to the position the New York GOP finds itself in, but it has other options available. They could simply ignore the issue and let it all blow over. Generally speaking, I tend to oppose such seemingly weak measures. But, given the situation, I actually think this is the best of three options.

  1. Strip Scozzafava of her leadership post for crossing party lines.
  2. Do nothing and wait for the backlash to subside.
  3. Issue a statement of support for Scozzafava and her remaining in leadership.

The GOP could do something completely counterintuitive and issue a statement of its continued support of Scozzafava. In doing so they could make an argument that what Dede did was a matter of conscience and what she perceived to be the best interest of the district. It would rest on the claim that the New York GOP would not allow national right wingers to Bigfoot their state. Such a move would have some positive effect on independent voters, but risks alienating a good portion of the GOP base. Such profiles in courage rarely result in electoral gains, at least in the short term.

The GOP could give in to its urges (at least as represented by its vocal contingent of wingers and teabaggers) and strip Scozzafava of her leadership position. This might energize some of the base in the short term, but it’s a long term disaster. What sort of message does purging Scozzafava send to other moderates within New York and across the country? Not just moderates within the GOP, but crucial independent voters. The GOP might as well hang up a sign saying, “doctrinaire conservatives only.”

Despite what they believe, the rightwing base is not representative of the universe of voters. They are far outside of the mainstream and, quite frankly, scare some independents. Beyond that, there is great symbolic meaning to purging a female. You can rest assured that Democrats in New York and elsewhere will be sure to remind movable female voters that the GOP has no room for pro-choice women.

This would be especially problematic in a blue state like New York. Next year’s gubernatorial election may include a fairly unpopular Democratic incumbent. But if the NY GOP hangs out its “no moderates” sign, you be certain that independents, especially women, will spurn the GOP. So, what might feel like some great victory for ideological purity could become Pyrrhic.

This leaves the easiest option- to do nothing at all. Some people may call this cowardice, but GOP leaders in New York are walking a tight rope. The average Republican in that state is fairly moderate on social issues and, as noted above, purity purges could even drive away soft Republican voters as well as independents. The teabaggers and their mouthpieces will quickly move on to the next victim or the next manufactured outrage in a matter of weeks, if not sooner. By the time 2010 elections come around, the wingers will have completely forgotten about Scozzafava’s leadership position in Albany.

A rational analysis of the situation leads one to a very simple conclusion- ignore the calls for Dede’s scalp. But, given the state of today’s GOP, I hardly think any rational decision-making will occur.

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