Sunday, November 01, 2009


Nate Silver:

The "extreme" conservatives do have a few electoral advantages over the moderates: more capacity to generate high turnouts amongst their base, more differentiation from the establishment, and arguably a "fresher" message (even if it's all in the packaging).

He's talking about the NY-23 congressional race -- where, by the way, Public Policy Polling still shows wingnut Doug Hoffman with a big lead, even after Republican Dede Scozzafava's decision to endorse Democrat Bill Owens, in a district that's long been Republican but supported Barack Obama in 2008.

I'm not surprised at the PPP poll results, and I expect Hoffman to win. And no, that doesn't make me happy -- I'm not cheering the selection of more-wingnutty candidates if those candidates can actually win. I agree with Nate:

... do Democrats really want to be celebrating if an extreme conservative like Hoffman -- who, by the way, is not an especially good candidate -- is able to win a very middle-of-the-road district like NY-23? ... if a Glenn Beck-ian conservative is able to win a district that shares a frontier with Vermont and Canada, ought that not be at least a little bit worrying for Democrats in terms of the mood of the country?

But I think, in many ways, it might be the same mood that elected Obama. Remember: most ordinary schmucks aren't politics junkies. They're not ideologically consistent. They were hurting a year ago and a vote for Barack Obama was a flip of the bird to the status quo; they're still hurting and the most anti-Obama vote possible is seen as exactly the same thing. People just want something to change.

Republicans like Reagan and (at least for a while) George W. Bush dealt with the transition from challenging the establishment to being the establishment by continuing to talk as if they were the besieged speakers of truth to power even though they were in power. It worked -- they prattled on as if Democrats and the media and a bunch of professors had more power than they did, and people fell for it.

The Democrats haven't pulled anything like that off. I'm not sure they can -- the idea that liberals run everything all the time is well ingrained in our thinking, and the opposite isn't.

So some votes for angry Beckista politicians may just be votes for "not the status quo." And that's going to be the case until Obama and the Democrats find a way to define an enemy the public perceives as powerful. And no, even though I like the attacks on Fox News, Fox News is not that enemy.

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