Republican-in-all-but-name or Conservative-in-name-only?

With her endorsement of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the special election in NY's 23rd, Sarah Palin has held to her statement from the 3rd of July, in which she announced her resignation as governor and declared that she would go on to "support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the right reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all," as I emphasized at the time. In her endorsement, Palin's language illustrates how the discourse surrounding this race has changed over the last three weeks, as more conservative Republicans have come out against the Republican Party's nominee in support of the third party candidate. Palin states:
Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty.
Just two months ago, Hoffman's status as a third party candidate was a point that had to be excused, up front. In his early endorsement of Hoffman, Eric Erickson wrote: "One state where there is an exception to my “no third parties” rule is New York." In other words, from being a "fringe" third party Conservative candidate, Hoffman has become the "real" Republican standard-bearer, while Republican Party candidate Dede Scozzafava is now termed a "radical liberal." This outcome reflects the success of what has been the Hoffman campaign's linguistic strategy from the very beginning. As the president of the Club for Growth, Chris Choccola, wrote in his explanation of the organization's endorsement of Hoffman in early October:
for the first time in our organization’s history, we endorsed a third-party candidate . . . I’m proud to defend our endorsed candidate, Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman . . . The Conservative Party’s Hoffman calls himself the “real Republican” in the race.
Ironically, upon winning the endorsement of the Conservative Party, Hoffman explained his move in the very same terms used by Arlen Specter when he defected to the Democratic Party. In the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, E.J. Conzola quoted Hoffman on August 7th, stating: "I have not left the Republican Party. The Republican Party has left me." Nonetheless, to a great extent, Hoffman has been able to overcome the viability hurdle faced by most third party political contenders precisely because he has been accepted as the "real" Republican candidate by conservative activists who have been laying the groundwork for such a linguistic coup for years, by denouncing actual Republican politicians and nominees as Republicans-in-name-only, i.e. RINOS. In other words, according to this logic, if Scozzafava is Republican-in-name-only, then Hoffman is Republican-in-all-but-name. Conservative and libertarian third party strategists would do well to study the dynamics of these sorts of reversals, which this race has supplied in great number.

While conservative Republican activists are busy pretending that Hoffman is the "real" Republican nominee, one hopes some might remember that he is, in fact, a third party candidate, and that, were it not for the extant third party ballot line supplied by the Conservative Party, he would have been effectively shut out of the race. Perhaps Hoffman himself will remind them of this some time, unless, that is, he is Conservative-in-name-only.


Samuel Wilson said...

I'm glad you put that last paragraph in, because both Palin and Hoffman seemed to betray Bipolarchy sentiment in their insinutations that the Republican party somehow belongs to the conservative movement. Whether Hoffman wins or not, his campaign won't have accomplished much if he and his supporters continue to equate conservatism and Republicanism in a way that implies that their real goal is another infiltration of the GOP rather than the strengthening of the Conservative party.

d.eris said...

Yes, and that is precisely the narrative that seems to be taking shape, i.e. infiltration ("taking back the party"). Which is win/win for for the ideology of duopoly: if Hoffman wins as the Conservative Party candidate, it will be seen as a win for the "real Republican," but if he loses it will be framed as just another failed third party effort. But this could be turned right around: if he wins, it is only because he ran as the third party candidate (otherwise he never would have even been in the race), while if he loses, perhaps, then the race was spoiled by Scozzafava.