THANK YOU, MR. HOFFMAN
By Mary Starrett
November 5, 2009
Doug Hoffman bucked the status quo. Faced with the unsavory choice of two liberal Democrats (one masquerading as a Republican) in a special election in upstate New York’s 23rd Congressional District , Hoffman, a mild mannered accountant and family man from Lake Placid, jumped into the fray and came out swinging at establishment politics in New York and around the country. He didn’t win a seat in Congress but he did win over the hearts and minds of Americans fed up with being led around by the nose by the arrogant power elite running the GOP.
Conservative Party candidate Hoffman went from last place in a three way contest to forcing out the GOP backed and financed Dede Scazzofava who was called “arguably more liberal than her (Democrat) opponent.”
Just a few days from the election Republican Scazzofava suspended her campaign rather than suffer a humiliating defeat behind the Democrat in the race and the conservative, third party candidate Hoffman.
Not only did Hoffman’s run put the “Big Box” party bosses on notice that political philosophy matters, but it gave a little known third party some street cred. To put it simply- Americans are getting past the point of negotiating with their erstwhile parties and are now proving that they will only take so much before they push back.
For years Republicans have given lip service to their loyal base, thumbing their collective nose at the party faithful by fielding candidates at odds with the GOP platform. On issues such as gun rights, privacy, immigration, abortion, taxation, education, foreign intervention and American sovereignty voters have been hard-pressed to find much distinction from the Democrats.
Close to three quarters of GOP voters say Republicans in Congress are out of touch with their constituents. Knowing that, the GOP backed a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro- “card check” (a way to practically force unionizing) candidate when it fielded Scazzofava in NY, begging the question “What were they thinking?”
But the Hoffman effect as it’s been called,shows that you can only fool people for so long. Something had to give and what gave came in the form of endorsements from high profile Republicans such as former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, talk show host Rush Limbaugh, former Congressman Dick Armey (R. TX) and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who some say is angling for a 2012 presidential bid.
end what mattered was that Hoffman stood his ground, took an enormous
chance and found that the time had indeed come for voters to rally around
a man who was pro-life, pro-family, pro-limited government and who had
signed a pledge not to raise taxes.
Hoffman’s race was a shot heard round the country. New York Times Op-Ed columnist Ross Douthat wrote:
(Hoffman) deserve(s) the public’s gratitude. (He’s) injected real substance into (his) race, and ... given voters a much more interesting choice than they would have otherwise enjoyed.
It’s a shame that this doesn’t happen more often. Gerrymandered districts, the power of incumbency and our tendency to self-segregate along ideological lines all help make American elections uncompetitive.
Make no mistake about it; every establishment GOP official has gotten the message.
The Hoffman effect was something the GOP was well acquainted with in Oregon in 2008. Two term liberal U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R. OR) was a shoo-in for re-election. That is, until Constitution Party candidate Dave Brownlow entered the race, gave true conservatives a real choice and drew enough votes from the Senator to cost him the election. Smith lost to the Democrat in the race by the exact percentage of votes cast for the pro-life, pro-Constitution Brownlow; but not before the RNC spent millions of dollars on TV ads and direct mail pieces designed to paint the Constitution Party’s Brownlow as “too liberal for Oregon.” It turned out to be the most expensive race Oregon had ever seen. It was desperation on the part of the Republicans, pure and simple. The smear campaign against Brownlow didn’t work, and once again the GOP saw that fielding liberals for office under the Republican flag was wearing on voters and they weren’t going to be fooled again. Voters need an option the R’s and D’s will not provide. Columnist Douthat points out there’s a great need for third party candidates in American politics today, writing:
They could provide a counterweight to the corruption associated with one-party rule, whether in solidly red states or deep-blue cities. They could get unorthodox candidates elected, and win hearings for unorthodox ideas. And they could help fulfill the promise of federalism, by organizing themselves around local particularities, rather than the national political divide... The Internet has democratized political organizing in ways that ought to weaken the two-party duopoly....Ron Paul ... proved that you can fund a presidential campaign with a laptop. Where Hoffmann (has) gone, others should be able to follow.
For anyone who wants to try, the time is now. This year has been a good year for independent candidates. Given the public mood these days, 2010 could be an even better one — and there will be a lot more than three offices up for grabs next fall.
AP reporter Beth Fouhy quoted a history professor at Florida's St. Leo University saying:
We have two wars and we're in a recession that neither party seems to address in any positive way. There's a deep sense that government has abandoned the common man. People are frustrated and angry.
Fouhy also noted:
Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released last week found that trust
in government is at a 12-year low, and half of all Americans now support
the creation of a new political party.
Both parties ignore such sentiment at their peril in 2010 and perhaps into the 2012 presidential race.
Hopper, a cartoon insect in A Bug’s Life counseled his fellow grasshoppers saying:
”You let one ant stand up to us, and they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one...if they ever figure that out… THERE GOES OUR WAY OF LIFE! It’s about keeping those ants in line.”
It seems the ants are starting to figure it out and that threatens the power elite’s way of life and their control over us. Victor Hugo wrote:
All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
By all accounts, the time has come for Americans to put an end to the charade that the two parties are in any wise different ideologically. In Not a Drum Was Heard, Henry Reed wrote:
In a civil war, a general must know...exactly when to move over to the other side.
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For men like Hoffman and Brownlow and others who bucked the naysayers and stood up to the political Goliaths, we owe a debt of gratitude. Win or lose, we’re in a contest now where before we were merely standing on the sidelines. Gandhi might have presaged a burgeoning era in American politics when he wrote:
First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win.
© 2009 Mary Starrett - All Rights Reserved
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Mary Starrett was the Constitution Party candidate for Oregon governor in November, 2006, a TV news anchor and talk show host for 25 years and a radio talk show host for 5 years.
Executive Director, Oregonians for Life, Board of Directors, Christian Family Adoptions.
She is currently the Communications Director for the Constitution Party. The Constitution Party is the fastest-growing minor political party (www.ballot-access.org) and is made up of Americans who believe a return to constitutional government is imperative.