Can they pick them, or not? Boy, those 11 county chairmen who picked Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava to run for Congress on the Republican ticket in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in the special election to succeed Rep. John McHugh have an eye for a winner.
Seeking a candidate for a center-right district near the Canadian border, they picked someone well to the left of some centrist Democrats, with none of the flair or pizazz that makes parties willing to tolerate mavericks.
She excited no one and repelled the conservatives, whom the chairmen accused of splitting the party. She was, they insisted, a fit for the district. Anyone who complained was being “divisive” and pulling down Reagan’s Big Tent.
Reagan said that his one-in-five enemy was his four-in-five friend, allowing for some points of difference in exchange for agreement on big-ticket items: for a Rudy Giuliani, who goes left on a fairly discrete set of issues, or a John McCain, who may stray on occasion, but who is solid on spending and war.
There would be room, too, for a Joe Lieberman (should he wish to come over), a rock on the surge, who ran in effect in 2006 on the Republican ticket and was endorsed by William F. Buckley (against the Dede-esque Lowell Weicker) in his very first Senate run.
Dede, however, was not quite a Joe, but someone to the left even of George S. McGovern (who opposed card check, or the nonsecret ballot, as anti-American), and she turned out to be so in tune with the voters that between the Democrat and her conservative challenger she came in third by a 15-point margin.
Talk about being the choice of the people, while being the one-in-five friend of the late Mr. Reagan. Way to go in choosing a terrific Republican candidate. These boys know their stuff.
Dede, however, was not just “progressive,” she was also a nut. She displayed her composure, her savoir faire and her grace under pressure when she called the police on a reporter who asked her an unwelcome question, a gesture in line with John Mitchell’s threat to put Katharine Graham’s “t-t in a wringer,” and President Barack Obama’s war on Fox News.
As a left-wing loon with Nixonian tendencies was just what you need when rebranding your party, this made people still more annoyed by this marketing genius. And in the end, it was a consumer rebellion that made push come to shove.
“The New Car Lemon Law (General Business Law 198-a) provides a legal remedy for buyers or lessees of new cars and certain used cars … that turn out to be lemons,” runs part of the New York state statute, which says the car must be repaired at the expense of the maker, or taken in for a new car in trade.
The voters, having taken the “Dede” out for a drive and found it defective — it seemed to swerve left and blew gaskets in traffic — wanted to turn it in for one they liked better, in this case, the 2009 “Doug.”
The chairmen resisted, but when demands for the “Doug” came in from Minnesota, South Carolina and even Alaska, they gave in to extreme market pressure. Swallowing $900,000 in ads and promotions, the Dede was pulled from the market. But this wasn’t the end.
“I have been a Republican my entire life, I will be a Republican until I die,” Dede said when she left the race Oct. 31. Either she lied through her teeth, or had died (it was, after all, Halloween weekend) and come back as the most substantial ghost ever spotted, but on Nov. 1 she came out for the Democrat, stabbing the county chairmen who backed her, and shredding the party unity they hoped to preserve.
“Scozzafava hasn’t just proven her critics right, she’s also made fools of the GOP establishment that backed her,” a reader wrote in to the blog Instanpundit. “The establishment argument … boiled down to an appeal to party unity, and Scozzafava just demonstrated that she has none. Gingrich et al asked voters to compromise on behalf of a candidate who turned on them the first chance she got.”
Sic transit Gloria Dede. And not a moment too soon.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”