Yesterday was by any account an interesting day in the Commonwealth and around the country. Were the election results a statement on the Obama Administration’s policy agenda? Was the result in Virginia a statement of discontent with the way Democrats are running Washington?
Clearly there is dissatisfaction in the air. On Tuesday, the newest key voting bloc – Independents – flexed their collective muscle once again and made a statement that things are askew and we need to get back on track. Tuesday’s election will certainly be analyzed over the next few weeks and the political pundits will issue their assessment of the votes, but a few things are immediately clear.
First, President Obama was not able to recreate the magic that he generated one year ago. Perhaps people are disillusioned; perhaps they feel that the change they supported has not been delivered upon. The only reality here is that voters were not as engaged as they were last year and the challenge for all candidates will be to figure out how to tap into that excitement and woo the same coalitions back to the polls in 2010. President Obama did actively campaign for the Democratic candidates in New Jersey and Virginia. Some will say that his influence has been deflated in two states that he easily carried just twelve months ago. While this is an important trend that should not be underestimated, there is a bigger message that needs to be addressed.
That message comes straight from the Congressional race in New York. In this much watched race, three candidates vied to replace Congressman John McHugh, a Republican. The Special Election in New York’s 23rd District went to Democrat Bill Owens in this largely Republican congressional district of New York. Congressman-Elect Owens defeated the candidate of the Conservative Party of New York, Doug Hoffman. But this race is notable because of the division between conservatives and GOP leaders. GOP leaders selected state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, a moderate Republican, as their candidate, over the Conservative Party of New York candidate, Hoffman.
The Democratic candidate, Owens, headed into Election Day trailing in polls. However, over the weekend, the GOP candidate, Scozzafava, withdrew from the race citing her sudden drop in polls amid continued conservative criticisms, and subsequently endorsed the Democratic candidate.
I know, if you didn’t follow this race, you might think that I was making up this stuff, but it’s all true! While the New Jersey and Virginia Governors’ Races are the headlines today, I think there is an important underlying lesson that must be learned from this race before the 2010 mid-term congressional races – the Republican party must figure out the right balance of standing up to their convictions for conservative principles without being intolerant to a wide array of political views.
With only two major political parties, there are bound to be a myriad of views and opinions within each political party. Not everyone will agree on every principle 100% of the time. The GOP must look forward to embracing the differences that make us strong. A diversity of opinion, and an acceptance of those differences, will allow the party to address the needs of those they represent with a broader appeal.
If the tent becomes so small that we are intolerant of the diversity of opinion within our own ranks, the GOP may never fully realize their potential. In my opinion, that is the real message behind Tuesday’s election results.