Monday, November 2, 2009

In Defense of the RNC (but not Dede Scozzafava)

The Republican National Committee has taken a lot of flak for their initial support of Dede Scozzzafava as the GOP's candidate in New York's 23rd Congressional district special election. I've got no special knowledge of the workings of the New York GOP, and the third, fourth and fifth parties that (as I understand it) can allow candidates to stand for election on more than one party label, seems to be straight out of a banana republic. In hindsight, from this distance, the NY GOP's pick of Scozzafava as their nominee looks as smart as buying Bear Stearns stock last August.

But let's cut the RNC some slack. There are no national political parties*. The RNC and the DNC are committees of two people from each state, a national chairman, and a small staff. The parties meet every four years at their national conventions but otherwise the Republican and Democrat parties are actually fifty-one separate state organizations, along with the elected officials who claim a D or R by their names (and rarely agree 100% with their party's official platform.) The RNC assumes that the New York state party will support its presidential candidate every four years , whomever he or she is; the New York state party assumes that the RNC will support the candidates which the party chooses for state and local elections.

Is it a good system? It beats the alternative: multiple parties where coalition governments are the rule. (Think Italy or Israel). It usually works, with occassional oddities: Joe Lieberman, defeated in the Democratic primary, victorious as an independent. He's an IINO. Or Texas Congressman Greg Laughlin, whom the GOP recruited to switch parties in 1995. A year later he lost the primary to Ron Paul. And then there's Arlen Specter, or Jim Jeffords.

When the national parties interfere in local party decisions, bad things happen. The DNC struggle with the establishment Southern Democrats from 1964 to 1972 changed the Solid South, from Texas to North Carolina, from all- D Senators to five Democrats and fifteen Republicans. Before that, the intra- party feuds over slavery killed the Whigs and birthed the GOP.

Chuck Todd just portrayed the Hoffman- Scozzafava feud as "massive infighting" between the GOP establishment in DC and the grassroots. He's smart enough to know better. The civil war is mostly at the local level. Michael Steele expected the New York GOP to pick the best possible candidate; his responsibility was to support the local party.

As for Dede Scozzafava, I agree with NRO: she owes the GOP $900,000.

*Excepting the CPUSA, ANSWER, and the LaRouchies.

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