The ideological purge of the Republican party is reaching new heights.
In case you’re late to the party in the New York district 23 special House election, a recap:
Dede Scozzafava, a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican was tapped by local leaders to represent the GOP in a special election to fill the seat of Rep. John McHugh, a Republican who was tapped to become president Obama’s Army secretary. NY-23 is a moderate, but safely Republican district: In the last election, Obama edged McCain 54/47, but McHugh trounced his Democratic challenger 65/35.
But Scozzafava’s moderation was seen as an intolerable taint by the party’s ideological enforcers. And so it is that the grossly uncharismatic Douglas Hoffman, a nasally voiced certified public accountant from Lake Placid, has become the poster boy for the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Challenging Scozzafava from the anti-tax, anti-gay right as the nominee of the New York Conservative Party, Hoffman quickly picked up endorsements from Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, likely 2012 contenders Tim Pawlenty
and Mike Huckabee and a host of other top GOP luminaries including Fred Thompson, who cut this ad for Hoffman. [Listen to the end to hear Hoffman’s unbearably dweeby, “I approve this ad” line.]
Over the weekend, the hardliners got their scalp. Running a distant third, Scozzafava withdrew from the race… and threw her support to Democrat Bill Owens, turning a gimme seat for the GOP into what now looks like a tossup, much to the delight of the DCCC.
NY-23 has become ground zero for the “GOP Jihad” I first reported about for Rolling Stone in May, in a piece now available in full for the first time online.
Some of the players have changed. Forward-looking Utah governor John Huntsman is now riding out the ideological purge in China as the American ambassador in Beijing. After “hiking the Appalachian trail,” hardline fiscal conservative Mark Sanford has seen his shooting star fizzle. But the same dynamics that drove Arlen Specter into the open arms of the Democratic party are now at play in upstate New York.
A few leading Republicans are now speaking out against the folly of the purge. Newt Gingrich, among the most vocal cheerleaders of Specter’s departure, has changed his tune. Gingrich threw his ample girth behind the moderate Scozzafava, reasoning “you can’t have a purely right-wing majority.”
But majority building is not the point here. As @JonHenke, a top, tech-savvy GOP operative, tweeted last night: “Our job is to disrupt the establishment GOP. If we beat Democrats too, great. But the first priority is to fix the GOP.”
Here’s Rolling Stone‘s full story from May: The GOP Jihad