If Hoffman wins NY-23 it would be similar to Childers’ win here last year

Now that I am back from Greece, I have been trying to catch up on the electoral news for tomorrow’s off-year and special elections. As far as most political bloggers seem to be concerned, the gubernatorial races have faded into the background and the genuinely less significant special House election in New York has been consuming everyone’s attention. This seems to be true regardless of the political views of the blogger. Hoffman’s insurgency seems to have become the focal point of tomorrow’s voting, which is hard for me to explain.

NY-23 is similar in some respects to NY-20, which earlier this year elected the Democrat Murphy over Tedisco in the special election there to replace now-Sen. Gillibrand, in that NY-23 has been a solid Republican district for a long time that voted for Obama in 2008. It makes sense that more conservative candidates would be winning significant support in these districts, and it also makes sense that candidates taking advantage of public frustration with the administration would be able to tap into feelings of disappointment among voters who took a chance on Obama and now somehow claim to be surprised by what he has been doing. In other words, a conservative candidate ought not to have much difficulty rallying support in an off-year special election in a district that has routinely sent Republicans to Congress. Low turnout elections ought to benefit candidates who represent mobilized, discontented voters, and that seems to describe Hoffman’s backers very well.

That should mean that a Hoffman victory, which is still by no means assured, would not be a great surprise and would not mean much beyond the confines of northern New York. Indeed, one wonders if Hoffman’s standing in the polls would be all that newsworthy if he were not a Conservative Party insurgent fighting against the local GOP leadership. My guess is that NY-23’s location in the Northeast will give many people on the right the wrong impression that Hoffman’s chance at success proves that movement activist-style conservatism can win or at least compete in the Northeast generally, but northern New York is not like most of the rest of the region. Travis Childers’ election in a special election last year was not and never would have been proof of the viability of progressive politics in the Deep South. The significance of a Hoffman victory would be similarly limited.

American Conservative Magazine
11/2/9