GOP to moderates: Leave our tent

A New York congressional race indicates a narrowing GOP focus.

The race for New YorkâÄôs 23rd Congressional District has been an unexpected battleground for the future of the GOP. The race originally had two Republican candidates: moderate Dede Scozzafava and standard conservative Douglas Hoffman. The GOP originally endorsed Scozzafava, who, unlike Hoffman, supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Then the far right went ballistic, with archconservatives like Bill Kristol and MinnesotaâÄôs own Michele Bachmann jumping on the Hoffman bandwagon. Sarah Palin endorsed Hoffman via Facebook, calling Scozzafava âÄúa candidate who more than blurs the linesâÄù ideologically. Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh quickly rallied behind Hoffman, as did Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Her own partyâÄôs attacks caused Scozzafava to drop out of the race and endorse the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, specifically mentioning his âÄúintegrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship.âÄù The Republican National Committee then endorsed Hoffman, and the Republican Party smugly returned to small-tent social conservatism. This race portends a frightening future for the GOP; its far-right members wonâÄôt let it select moderate candidates, instead preferring the ideologically pure. Their language is disturbing; several have called ScozzafavaâÄôs candidacy a betrayal, in addition to PalinâÄôs âÄúblurs the linesâÄù comment. In the wake of Ron Paul, a libertarian revival and a 2008 electoral trouncing, rather than read the tea leaves of party growth and realignment, the GOP has chosen exclusion and narrow ideology. It will now become increasingly marginalized, without a strong centrist constituency to elect candidates able to work in a bipartisan way to achieve practical results.