A spectre is haunting upstate New York — the spectre of knee-jerk, reactionary, substance-less, Bush-style conservatism. There, in New York’s historically conservative 23rd congressional district, Republican Assemblymember Dede Scozzafava and Democrat Bill Owens are battling to succeed John McHugh, but now face an insurgent far-right candidate, Doug Hoffman, backed by out-of-state far-right interests like Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin. To date, the polling hasn’t looked good for Hoffman, but a new Club for Growth poll puts him ahead of both. If this huge swing is accurate — and there’s reason to doubt that it is (consider the source’s motivations) — it’s time for both Scozzafava and Owens to re-evaluate.
The best avenue of attack is this: Hoffman doesn’t know what he’s talking about. On a recent visit to a local newspaper, the candidate utterly failed to speak in simple, let alone intelligent terms, about local issues. The contest is therefore best seen as one between a veteran Assemblymember who’s well-versed in local politics and with a proven service record, a more liberal challenger who’s at least making an effort, and Doug Hoffman, a partisan firebrand more interested in the soapbox that a congressional seat allows than in actually helping his constituents. In a way, Palin’s support is altogether fitting: like Palin, Hoffman appears quite capable at lobbing partisan volleys, but remains utterly uninterested in the real work of governing.
In the race to succeed McHugh, upstate conservatives have the option of choosing either competence or ideological purity. Here’s hoping they take the road less traveled by.