NY 20: No Referendum

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A special election in a Republican-leaning New York congressional district is being mistaken for a referendum on Barack Obama's economic policies by some in the media and political establishments. In fact, it is no such thing, and the cynical Republican candidate deserves to lose by double digits. Why? Because he is running on exactly the opposite message he should be, although it may not be obvious that he is doing so.

The article correctly notes that Republican Jim Tedisco stands to profit from outrage at Barack Obama's lurch towards fascism:

... Peter Holderied, whose family owns the Golden Arrow Hotel in Lake Placid, said he was dismayed by Obama's economic stimulus bill, passed by the Democratic Congress in February.

"It's unreal," he said, shaking his head. "People are just getting wind of what this is going to cost us."
The article also, unsurprisingly for a mainstream media outlet, is quick to note both that Tedisco's victory is far from assured and that a Tedisco victory would not necessarily be a seismic event.
But Tedisco's campaign isn't much of an insurgency. [Now-Senator Kirsten] Gillibrand's win here in 2006 was viewed as a major upset. The district has a solid Republican majority; the late Gerald Solomon, a popular Republican, held the seat for 20 years.

That should make Tedisco the favorite. For much of this brief campaign, he was, but that seems to have changed.

The latest poll, released Friday and conducted by nearby Siena College, showed Murphy up by 4 points. Tedisco led by 12 points in the same poll a month ago.
So Tedisco is running in a GOP district and his lead has been slipping even as Obama has become even more blatantly statist in his handling of the economy, most recently (and very inappropriately) micromanaging General Motors by "firing" its CEO.

The Los Angeles Times is right about the Tedisco campaign not being "much of an insurgency", but for entirely the wrong reason. The real story here is that this race is even as close as it is. Tedisco ought to be poised for a blowout victory, and yet he's probably going to eke out a win of a percentage point or two. Why? Because he's not really running against Barack Obama at all.
Tedisco, who has served in New York's General Assembly for 27 years, has ridden that populist, anti-Wall Street message hard, painting [his opponent, Scott] Murphy, who made millions as a venture capitalist, as an out-of-touch creature of the financial sector.

In essence, the dynamic that existed during last year's election cycle has been stood on its head. The way Tedisco portrays it, two months into Obama's administration, Democrats are now the overreaching party, a friend to big business. Republicans like himself are the grass-roots fighters, trying to bring change.
So it's not that Barack Obama is trampling over our rights, or that one man can't possibly know enough to run an economy as huge as America's, or even that he's killing the Golden Goose by reducing the incentives for good performance by CEOs and taxing the hell out of what's left -- it's that Obama hasn't jawboned Wall Street enough. The last thing America's persecuted minority needs right now is for someone from the supposedly pro-business party to jump onto the pile.

If Tedisco is any indication, the GOP has learned exactly the wrong lesson from its resounding defeat in November, and has begun me-tooing the Democrats. This is why Tedisco is not exactly trouncing his Democratic opponent. What does he offer to voters genuinely opposed to Obama? More of the same, at least to the ones who are paying attention. And what about voters who are impatient with Obama for not having already nationalized everything? Tedisco is a good protest vote because, if he wins, he'll probably squeak by, he won't have anything of substance to say against Obama, it's just one vote, anyway, and other GOP candidates fundamentally opposed to big business will be emboldened.

In immediate terms, the cause of freedom has already lost in this election. The GOP candidate deserves to get trounced, and voting against him is the best way to ensure that the Republicans learn that the best way to win against Obama is to beat him, not to join him.

The best way for this to happen in this race is for Tedisco to lose by a narrow margin, and for genuine friends of freedom to protest that he failed to offer a real alternative to Barack Obama's meddlesome policies.

-- CAV

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