Thursday, October 22, 2009


David Frum is fretting about his party, as he sees Democrats doing surprisingly well in the New Jersey governor's race and a special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, in both cases partly because of strong third-party challengers:

Prelude to Republican fratricide

GOP candidates in New York and New Jersey should be cruising to victory this November. But angry conservatives would rather hand power to Democrats than help moderate Republicans win.

...What lessons will Republicans draw? You might think that the impending defeats in New York and New Jersey would drive home the need to broaden the Republican coalition....

But the risk is that the party will draw a very different conclusion. From the New York experience, Republicans will be tempted to draw the lesson: Always nominate the more conservative candidate. From New Jersey: We need to drive pro-environmental fiscal moderates out of our party and into the Democratic Party where they belong!

... But a political formula that encourages Republicans to write off the suburbs, the Northeast, and California is not a formula for a national majority. It's a formula for a more coherent, better mobilized, but perpetually minority party....

To which Republican supporters of right-wing purism may well respond: Yeah? So what?

And, really, you can't blame them, can you?

Democrats lost a big test vote on health care legislation on Wednesday as the Senate blocked action on a bill to increase Medicare payments to doctors at a cost of $247 billion over 10 years.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, needed 60 votes to proceed. He won only 47. And he could not blame Republicans. A dozen Democrats and one independent crossed party lines and voted with Republicans on the 53 to 47 roll call.

... Republicans said [the bill] was fiscally irresponsible, and some Democrats said they shared that concern....

This was a key test of strength -- at a time when many (most?) Democrats and progressives think the passage of a good health-care bill is inevitable -- and Reid fell 13 votes short. If this is the best Democrats can do, why the hell should Republicans worry about being a permanent minority party? What difference does it make if (along with Democrat-hating Democrats) they have a comfortable cushion whenever there's a key vote and they want to gum up the works?

Maybe if Democrats are looking at 70 or 75 seats in the Senate there'll be trouble for the GOP -- because only then (maybe) will a Democratic agenda be able to garner 60 votes in the Senate predictably. But we're not even close to that. So Republicans have no motivation whatsoever to broaden their appeal.

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