Published November 04, 2009
After weeks of ups and downs and unknowns in the special election for the 23rd congressional district of New York with conservative candidate Doug Hoffman losing to Democrat Bill Owens (one that which played out much like a political telanovela) analysts can agree on one absolute: we love drama.
This race was reality television at its best with all the necessary ingredients: an underdog (Hoffman), a train wreck (Scozzafava), celebrity influence (Palin) and an attentive national media. And like many reality shows, after you've watched it you feel like you learned almost nothing.
So what did we learn about NY 23 besides its dizzying storyline?
1. We learned that the Republican Party establishment in Washington is not losing its influence; it simply backed a bad candidate in Scozzafava -- someone it never initially selected, nominated or wholeheartedly endorsed. Sometimes, candidates are just plain weak (see the Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia governor's races) and in places like New York where third party candidates are common, a door is opened for someone outside the norm.
2. We learned that Sarah Palin doesn't just "go rogue" herself; she helps others do the same. Palin's an earned media machine. She was able to help bring the battle to the national stage (Heck, the woman could get the national press corps to focus on a potato sack race competition). Even those who think the former Alaska governor is political poison, at the very least, have to admit her endorsement didn't hurt Hoffman and didn't help Scozzafava. The real question: is this a trend...for her? If Sarah Palin has any hopes of winning a national office she can't run around endorsing unwinnable candidates. She'll lose her political mojo and be labeled a spoiler.
3. From the NY 23 race we also learned that this is not the beginning of a GOP civil war. For decades moderates and conservatives have faced each other in primaries, but when faux Republicans like Scozzafava who espouse liberal beliefs run for higher office they run the risk of getting challenged, clipped or even defeated by someone from the right, or often helping the guy on the left.
4. We learned that despite all the craziness, the voters -- not the pundits, polls or the politicians -- make the final call. But in the case of NY 23, maybe the most telling takeaway is the only absolute: we love a good story.