Sunday, November 1, 2009

Consequences of Maximalism 2

I was going to move on to incentives within Congress, but I see that Seth Masket has posted a somewhat different response to Frank Rich's column than I did. I don't think that Seth and I disagree, but his emphasis was different, and I thought I should go back and think about it a bit more (if you don't read Seth, you should, and you should also read his book, which is excellent.

At any rate, Seth took issue with Frank Rich's assertion that
No matter what the results in that race on Tuesday, the Republicans are the sure losers.
Seth, quite sensibly, points out that it's always better to win than to lose, and I think he's right about that. However, I think I'll take the middle ground here. Given the situation now, it would be better for the Republicans if they hold the seat than if they don't. Rich makes much of the idea that conservatives will be emboldened if they succeed, but that's silly; conservatives didn't need much emboldening (is that a word?) going into this race, and if they should happen to fall a little short of actually electing Hoffman (the conservative candidate), it'll be easy for them to still think of NY-23 as a glorious victory over the evil RINOs, and it was just too bad that given the special circumstances and all it unfortunately cost them a House seat.

On the other hand, while Republicans will be better off with the seat than without it, I think Rich is correct that this has been a net loss for the party. What they've gained (should they hold the seat) is a bit more loyalty on floor votes; odds are that once Scozzofava had moved from Albany to Washington, she would have moved right anyway, since committee assignments and money for reelection would have pushed her pretty strongly in that direction. And she would have been a safe seat, while we don't know that yet about Hoffman, should he win. Meanwhile, as I said earlier, this high-profile example of GOP intolerance of moderates is going to hurt Republican recruitment in the future. So I agree with Rich that this episode is a net loser for Republicans, although I agree with Seth that, at this point, Republicans should prefer victory to defeat.

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