The electrifying news that the “handpicked” Republican candidate for New York’s 23rd Congressional District is throwing in the towel is good news for conservatives who were supporting the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman.
But it’s also a good lesson in why party regulars are better off more often than not letting the rank and file make up their own mind on a candidate, rather than trying to be clever.
Back in 1988, Pat Robertson’s run for the presidency proved very divisive because the way many of his delegates were elected, i.e., his supporters packed party caucuses. (Barack Obama won many of his states in 2008 the same way during the nominating process.) This rankled much of the rest of the Republican Party, and the division that resulted is one reason why this current race ended up the way it did.
Here in Tennessee, Republicans have the rather unusual practice of making all of the delegates run in a primary, both at the congressional district level and statewide. Thus, when the Robertson delegates (and I was one of them) went down in flames in the primary, everyone knew the process was fair. But that facilitated the integration of new “religious right” people into the state party, avoiding the divisive conflicts elsewhere, so much so the Christian Coalition never really got off of the ground in Tennessee.
If the Republican Party plans to stay in the game, it’s going to have to find a better way to resolve its internal conflicts. Since this is supposed to be an elective process, one way is to involve as much of the party as possible. It’s messy sometimes, but then again politics in general is messy.
P.S. to my friends in TN-3: this is one reason why I’m supporting Art Rhodes for Congress. Robin Smith is just too divisive, and not always for the best reasons.