Gingrich makes several arguments. Some are
straw-men-y -- activists aren't abdicating their belief in "state's
rights" by supporting a candidate they choose. Indeed, in arguing that
supporters of Doug Hoffman's in New York's 23 congressional district
are bucking "local control and local authority," he's playing into the
argument that party leaders are choosing the wrong candidates.
Gingrich's better point is that conservative activists must be willing
to accept more than a few degrees of independence in order to make sure
that Republicans win seats in non-Republican areas. NY 23 is a GOP
district, one of the more conservative in New York state.
"So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether
they're from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New
Minnesota, Alaska and Texas are different places, Mr. Speaker. If
Hoffman could win Republican primaries in CDs in all of those states,
then he surely could win in a conservative district in New York, too.
better argument is that Hoffman might win in an off-year special
election where non-liberals split their vote, but he's not the type of
Republican who will win even in high-turnout midterm elections outside
of the South.
And I think if this third party candidate takes away just enough votes to elect
the Democrat, then we will have strengthened Nancy Pelosi by the divisiveness.
We will not have strengthened the conservative movement.
This is the question, really. I don't think Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)
endorsed Doug Hoffman because he knew Hoffman would win. He endorsed
Hoffman because he knew that he would be penalized if he didn't.
Hoffman's become a litmus test for activists who, for better or for
worse, are going to control the narrative of the party in the next few
years because the party has no voice.
Before the tech/comms revolution, it was easy for local Republicans and
national Republicans to conspire to nominate "electable" candidates.
Now, thanks to the existence of a television network like Fox, which
will make heroes out of conservative revolutionaries, to the
persistence of conservative talk radio (which divorced the GOP after
the Bush era), to the entrepreneurship of conservatives like Erick
Erickson, marginal figures like Doug Hoffman can become mainstream
The activist's calculation is different than Gingrich's. It's that the
local GOP should have found a more conservative candidate to begin
with, not a socially liberal Republican.
On such as abortion, gay marriage, which
means that she's about where Rudy Giuliani was when he became mayor. And yet
Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor. And so this idea that we're suddenly going to
establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we're going to purge the
party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent -- that guarantees
Obama's reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think
that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
Gingrich is saying that the ideologue's fantasy is that there are
enough conservatives in enough areas so that conservatives can actually
run as conservatives -- since conservatism is the pluralist ideology of
Americans -- and win elections.
I believe in a Republican Party big enough
to have representation in every part of the country, and I believe you don't
strengthen yourself by having a purge. You strengthen yourself by attracting
more people, not by driving people away.
We live in an era where people can define
themselves by their ideology more than their party. And that makes these
"big tent' arguments difficult. Gingrich may be right. He may also be
overstating his case. It may be true that Republicans can nominate more
conservative candidates than they've been nominating, and certainly, at
a time when people are frustrated by taxes and spending and debt and a bad economy, it makes sense to push back against the party.