Are conservatives stupid or just suicidal?

No, not exactly. Or at least, not necessarily. But let me put it his way…

During any day, countless questions rattle around in my brain, stirring up cobwebs and providing distraction.

One question keeps coming up. Again, and again, and again.

Why do conservatives think they’ll be able to win elections if only they run candidates with ever-more-so conservative views?

It defies political logic, actually. The median voter model. Basic statistics. People are going to cluster around the middle. Go further to the right — or the left — and you’ll start losing votes as people shift their support to the candidate who is closer to the middle.

Sure, you’ll pick up some hardcore radicals who might not otherwise vote at all. But how many votes are in that group, really? Hardly enough to make up for all the votes you lose by running an extremist.

In the NY-23 election yesterday, a coalition of ‘baggers, social conservatives, and an odious little man named Robert Stacy McCain managed to lose a district held safely in Republican hands since the 1890s.

Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman lost to Democrat Bill Owens, 49-45.

How did this coalition of the far-right manage this stunning upset? Dirty tricks and a smear campaign against the moderate Republican incumbent Dede Scozzafava. After poor polling, Scozzafava dropped out of the race, although her name remained on the ballot.

She still managed to pick up some six percent of the vote.

Would Scozzafava have won the election without Hoffman’s opposition? Probably. NY-23 was a safe Republican seat. There is every reason to think she would have trounced Owens.

Michelle Malkin and Robert Stacy McCain are treating this defeat as some sort of perverse victory for their wacky version of social conservatism. Since Hoffman did manage to pick up 45 percent of the vote, the narrative goes, that shows the enduring popularity of conservative ideas. After all, 45 percent is more than anyone expected him to receive!

Let’s try an alternative, more realistic narrative. A Glenn Beck-loving, far-right carpetbagger pushes out a moderate Republican, only to lose the election to a Democrat. More than half the people in NY-23 rejected Hoffman’s conservative views and voted for Owens.

In a district Republicans have owned for more than a century. That’s a symbol of the losing power of social conservatism.

Suppose Scozzafava was too liberal, in whatever sense.  Fair enough. That means you move a notch or two to the right, while keeping in mind that this move risks losing votes from the center cluster. That’s logical. Rational. Support a slightly more conservative candidate.

But it’s not rational to move all the way to the right. From the other side, the Democrats realized this, and ran Blue Dogs against Republicans. Just a bit to the left, while still appealing to moderates.

They didn’t take the loss of more liberal democrats as a sign that they needed to run communists in those districts. But that would have been the equivalent strategy on the left.

There are some who want the Republicans to move further to the right, socially and economically. Appeal to the ‘baggers. The racists and the homophobes. Move to the right and let everyone else catch up.

An article of faith among the social conservatives. Thanatos in action to the rest of us.


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