Republican Schism: Gingrich vs. Palin

YES, this is about creationism. And it’s also about a great deal more.

It’s all coming into focus in a special congressional election in New York, in which the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, is running against Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman to see who will represent New York’s 23rd Congressional District. There is also a democrat in the race, attorney Bill Owens. The election will be held on 03 November 2009.

The consensus of informed opinion is that the democrat would be handily defeated were it not for the presence of both a Republican and a Conservative candidate in the race. The Republican vote is being split between Dierdre and Doug. That’s bad news for the GOP, which should otherwise be able to win the currently vacant seat. And that GOP split, dear reader, involves creationism.

We’ve previously written of our discomfort concerning the present state of the GOP. See: Open Letter to the Republican Party. There we complained that:

While the other party has been winning elections and undermining everything we have traditionally valued, what issues dominate our political discourse? Our party has been talking about sex and religion.

At that time we referred to the divisive issues as sex and religion; at other times we’ve used a different expression for the same problem. We once wrote that “family values” is code for an obsession with Noah’s Ark and chastity belts. We’re still struggling for a memorable expression that captures the two issues threatening the future of the Republican party.

This time we’re going to try creationism and chastity, or C&C. The meaning of creationism is obvious; the term chastity in this context includes a vast array of topics that somehow find their way into political discourse — topics like abstinence, promiscuity, homosexuality, pre-marital relations, contraception, sodomy, pornography, same-sex marriage, sex education, abortion, and morning-after pills. Does that list sound familiar? It should, because increasingly, those are the issues that get discussed in Republican campaigns.

When either of the C&C issues is raised (usually it’s both), even if only in a peripheral way, it energizes an enthusiastic portion of the Republican base, and that can assure primary victories. It can also assure general election victories in some regions of the country — especially where William Jennings Bryan once strode like giant across the political landscape. But in other regions, and in national politics generally, those same issues are seen as extreme — even bizarre — and that repels a large number of undecided voters who often determine the outcome in general elections.

There’s yet another problem with the C&C issues, which helps to explain the unfavorable reaction of independent voters. The Constitution doesn’t give the federal government any authority over those issues, so they’re strikingly out of place in congressional and presidential politics. If the C&C issues need to be addressed, it can only be at the state level; and most state constitutions also prevent governmental enforcement of religious doctrine; and let’s be candid here — religion is at the core of both C&C issues.

So how is all of this playing out in the New York election? Scozzafava is the Republican candidate. She has traditional Republican positions on taxes, economics, defense, and the 2nd Amendment. But she’s not a “social conservative.” She’s not one of the “family values” crowd. She’s pretty much a libertarian on abortion, and she’s also that way on same-sex relationships. She’s definitely not an in-your-bedroom conservative.

Because Scozzafava is the Republican in the race, she’s been endorsed by Newt Gingrich. At this page of his website, On the NY23 Race, We Have A Practical Choice To Make, Newt says, with bold font added by us:

Through my experience as Speaker of the House and building a Republican majority in 1994, I have learned that if America wants a conservative majority in Washington, parts of that majority are going to disagree. I was elected Speaker because a number of moderates voted for me. They gave us control of the House for the first time in forty years, allowing us to balance the federal budget, cut taxes and reform welfare for America.

My endorsement of Dede Scozzafava in the special election for New York’s 23rd Congressional District is a means of regaining a conservative majority in America.

Although some of her values do not match my own, Scozzafava will help us in our efforts to win back Congress. She has signed the no-tax-increase pledge from the Americans from Tax Reform, she has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, she opposes cap-and-trade and energy tax increases, she is against Obama Care, and she has said she will vote against Nancy Pelosi and in favor of John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Newt is undoubtedly thinking of his Contract With America, the most successful thing we’ve done since nominating Ronald Reagan. Each item on Newt’s list was poll-tested. Significantly, religion and sex were not on the list, except indirectly in the case of some welfare reform provisions affecting unwed mothers, and some non-controversial items in the proposed Family Reinforcement Act ( such as tax incentives for adoption, and stronger child pornography laws). Wikipedia says: “Gingrich insisted on ‘60% issues’, intending for the Contract to avoid promises on controversial and divisive matters like abortion and school prayer.” Source: Contract with America.

A bit more from the Gingrich website:

My number one interest in the 2009 elections is to build a Republican majority. If your interest is taking power back from the Left, and your interest is winning the necessary elections, then there are times when you have to put together a coalition that has disagreement within it.

We have to decide which business we are in. If we are in the business about feeling good about ourselves while our country gets crushed then I probably made the wrong decision.

We like Newt. He makes sense.

Opposed to Scozzafava is Doug Hoffman, who differs from Scozzafava in that he is anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. Thus, one of the C&C issues is clearly involved. Hoffman has recently been endorsed by Sarah Palin, and more recently by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both are creationists — the other part of C&C. We can’t find anything specifically indicating that Hoffman is a creationist, but he certainly holds to all the other “family values” positions.

Hoffman’s campaign website indicates that he’s also endorsed by Rick Santorum, another creationist. Can this be a coincidence? It seems more likely that the “family values” crowd recognize Hoffman as one of their own.

Want more? Hoffman is also endorsed by James Dobson. Check out the “social issues” section of his website. In the “education” section, describing Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project, we find:

Lesson 5 – Science: What is True? (two-part lesson)

(Part One): Science, the “systematic study of the natural world,” brings to light innumerable evidences of Intelligent Design. But Darwinian theory transforms science from the honest investigation of nature into a vehicle for propagating a godless philosophy.

(Part Two): A careful examination of molecular biology and the fossil record demonstrates that evolution is not a “proven fact.” Meanwhile, history shows that ideas, including Darwinism as a social philosophy, have definite consequences – consequences that can turn ugly when God is left out of the picture.

To be fair, that’s from Dobson, not Hoffman. But the question is unavoidable — Why are so many known creationists supporting Hoffman? We think it’s because Hoffman is another C&C Republican.

We don’t know what’s going to happen in New York’s 23rd Congressional District on 03 November. But we think the split between what’s shaping up to be the Gingrich wing and Palin wing of the party is in plain view for all to see. The GOP may well lose that seat as a result.

So where does this leave us? Is the Grand Old Party about taxes, defense, and preserving the Constitution? Or is it primarily about God and sex?

The answer involves more than one congressional seat — far more. What’s really in question is whether the Republican party will have any national viability at all. And on that point — some will think this an exaggeration, but they’re wrong — depends the fate of the civilized world.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “Republican Schism: Gingrich vs. Palin

  1. comradebillyboy

    GOP… “god’s own party” was the term I heard used by attendees at the 2004 nominating convention. They have become the “lets get government into the bed room” party.

  2. comradebillyboy says:

    They have become the “lets get government into the bed room” party.

    And while supervising what’s happening there, they can also be lecturing you about Noah’s Ark.

  3. Curdge, you definitely get to the heart of the matter of the current Republican party. Sometimes it seems that all we get are people who want a government that can’t do anything except keep tabs on who’s sleeping with who.

  4. Albanaeon says: “… keep tabs on who’s sleeping with who.”

    Pervert! That’s a same-case relationship! True conservatives say “who’s sleeping with whom.”

  5. Now you’re spotting “creationism” with no evidence like others spot Intelligent Design. The big issues about this race I’ve been seeing are fiscal and abortion (which isn’t a creationist issue).

    The issue, unless you can prevent evidence to the contrary, is that the local Republican party picked a liberal in a right leaning district and it’s pretty natural for conservatives to rebel a bit instead of mindlessly voting for whomever has an R next to his or her name.

  6. I like Gingrich too. He’s smarter than the average bear. But jeepers he’s such a hypocritical demagogue sometimes! (Now that I think of it, I guess that would explain his success. But still…)

  7. Frank,
    In my opinion abortion is a religious issue because the people who argue against it do so on the grounds that conception gives you a soul. They don’t say that in public forums, but I think if we’re being honest, “the embryo has a soul” is why most if not all pro-life supporters think abortion is murder.

    Religious does not equal creationist, but Curmy is right in saying that religion is at the core of both C&C issues, and asking whether future GOP platforms will be more about the Constitution or God.

  8. there are plenty of non social/cultural issues issues to make the anointed GOP candidate worrisome:

    1) she reportedly supports “card check” which would eliminate secret ballots to unionize workers

    and

    2) she was apparently twice previously endorsed by the Worker Family Party, a far left socialist political organization which is for all practical purposes the political Wing of ACORN.

    This is sufficient grounds to question Newt’s judgment, regardless of the candidate’s stand on evolution or other “Underwear Drawer” issues.

  9. Longie says: “there are plenty of non social/cultural issues issues to make the anointed GOP candidate worrisome”

    I agree, she’s far from ideal. Nevertheless, this race does seem to symbolize the schism over C&C. If it’s not a perfect example, that’s okay. It’s the one the news brought to me, so I used it.

  10. Curmudgeon: “And while supervising what’s happening there, they can also be lecturing you about Noah’s Ark.”

    I doubt it. They need Michael “reading the Bible as a science text is silly” types under the big tent. So I’m betting they would adopt a DI-style “don’t ask, don’t tell (what happened when)” policy. Which of course will lead most people to infer a global flood anyway.

    As for Gingrich, I liked his 2006 endorsement of evolution, except for a curious caveat that seemed to say “I’m for sale.” Alas, all politicians are.

    Actually, being fairly socially conservative, I could tolerate a little bit of pandering to the “2nd C” as long as the candidate stands up for science and science education. Which means denouncing anti-evolution activism in no uncertain terms.

  11. Frank J says:

    Actually, being fairly socially conservative, I could tolerate a little bit of pandering to the “2nd C” as long as the candidate stands up for science and science education.

    I’ve been looking, and I can’t find anything Hoffman has said about creationism. It’s odd that he hasn’t said anything one way or the other. If he had come out for evolution, I suspect that some of his endorsements wouldn’t have materialized. It’s a bit of a mystery. But if he’s okay on science, I can tolerate him — I guess. I live like a social conservative. But I don’t like their intrusiveness.

  12. retiredsciguy

    Longfellow, you don’t like some of the stands taken by Dierdre Scozzafava, but you probably would dislike even more the votes that would be made by the Democrat, Bill Owens, if he’s elected. That’s much more likely to happen with Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman splitting the Republican vote.

    Gingrich is right — to form a winning coalition, you must accept some compromises. Scozzafava might vote on some issues in a way you don’t like, but you can bet that Owens would vote against your wishes on many more issues. Hoffman might vote more along your lines, but chances are he’s got less of a chance of being elected than H. Ross Perot had, and he’ll do the same thing to Scozzafava that Perot did to G.H. W. Bush.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    I think this has a lot more to do with abortion than with evolution. There’s an element of guilt by association to SC’s post, I think,

    In my opinion abortion is a religious issue because the people who argue against it do so on the grounds that conception gives you a soul. They don’t say that in public forums, but I think if we’re being honest, “the embryo has a soul” is why most if not all pro-life supporters think abortion is murder.

    I don’t believe in souls, and I oppose abortion, and since I have no religion it is not a religious issue for me.

    You can’t cherry pick one argument for a position and claim that it invalidates every other argument that could be advanced for it. It’s exactly what the creationists do when they claim evolution is part of the “atheist religion”.

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    Incidentally, since when did Gingrich become the reasonable moderate now? I remember when he was described as a “bomb-throwing conservative” and Doonesbury depicted him as a cartoon bomb; I remember all the comparisons to Hitler.

    Gingrich, like Reagan and Goldwater, is being praised now by liberals because they perceive him as opposing today’s conservatives.

  15. Hoffman might vote more along your lines, but chances are he’s got less of a chance of being elected than H. Ross Perot had, and he’ll do the same thing to Scozzafava that Perot did to G.H. W. Bush.

    Not according to the two most recent polls quoted on Real Clear Politics which have Hoffman (C) leading the Dem by 4 and 5 points respectively, and Scozzafava (R) trailing by double digits.

    But even if that weren’t the case, the trouble with the GOP running Dem-lite candidates is that eventually, the voters figure they might was well elect a real Democrat. And that is IMHO, exactly why the GOP is in the boat it is today — they ran congress like they were Democrats, engaging in the most profligate deficit spending imaginable (at least until the current congress took power), and the all-critical independent voters figured if we can survive Dem lite GOPers, then we can survive the real thing, and voted for them.

    At some point , you have to draw a line in the sand and say “enough is enough” — and support a third party candidate when the GOP tries to cram a DEM-lite in GOP clothing down the voters’ throats.

    And in some cases, the vote will get split, and the real Dem will get in for a while (only a year, in tis case). But it a price voters have to be willing to pay stop the GOP from going over the cliff trying act and spend like Democrats.

    Lastly, keep in mind an election is not a horse race: there is no prize or payout for betting on the winner. The benefit for voting for third party candidate, even if he loses, is it sends a message to the major party that thinks it “lost your vote” to move in the direction espoused by the third party candidate if it wants you vote back.

    At the present, the voters in this country are concerned most with economic issues — too much spending, too large deficits, too many jobs lost, potential for massive tax increases, and risk of massive inflation down the road. If the GOP wants to get its act together, it needs to focus on conservative economic principles — cut government spending, rejuvenate the economy by tax cuts and getting rid of restrictive and unneeded regulations, and tell the social conservatives to lay off the Underwear Drawer Issues, or go home.

    IMHO, that would win then seats in landslide fashion in 2010.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    @longshadow:

    You’ve hit on the head. Elect a Democrat-lite and all you’ve done is given one more vote to the Democrats, who don’t need it anyway.

    If they get a real Democrat, fine; but the party needs to learn they can’t keep feeding us crap sandwiches, saying that the Democrat sandwiches are just going to be worse. We already know that , and we already getting it.

  17. Gabriel Hanna: I don’t believe in souls, and I oppose abortion, and since I have no religion it is not a religious issue for me.

    You can’t cherry pick one argument for a position and claim that it invalidates every other argument that could be advanced for it.

    Thats true, Gabriel, but I think you are in the minority. I think its a religious issue for a lot of people, and that the religious motivation is often hidden.

    To try and avoid a heated discussion over one of America’s favorite topics, I’ll just say that I’m opposed to anyone attempting to enforce their religious view or religious law on the rest of us by deceiving us as to their motives. That other folks may hold that same view for honest, open, and nonreligious reasons doesn’t make the deception constitutional.

  18. Maggie Gallagher latest is
    a hoot.

    “Club for Growth’s latest poll shows Hoffman ahead and Dede Scozzafava fading badly…”

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    @eric:’ll just say that I’m opposed to anyone attempting to enforce their religious view or religious law on the rest of us by deceiving us as to their motives.

    Christianity teaches that murder and theft are sins, therefore we must now legalize both. Because the majority of people want them illegal on religious grounds, and they can’t be allowed to impose their religious views by deception.

    Eric, you haven’t thought this through.

    You’ve bought into the creationist logic that evolution is atheism because atheists believe in it.

  20. retiredsciguy

    Curmy,
    Did you see this AP article? It was one of the headlines today (11/1) on Yahoo.

    “ALBANY, N.Y. – Fighting plunging support, Republican Dierdre Scozzafava has abruptly suspended her campaign in a special election for a U.S. House seat that has exposed a rift among national factions of the party.”

    The rest of the article goes into the details.

  21. retiredsciguy asks: “Did you see this AP article?”

    Yup. And I saw Gingrich on TV this morning praise Scozzafava for dropping out. He says that now he supports Hoffman.

  22. Gabriel Hanna

    Scozzafava endorsed Owens.

    http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20091101/NEWS09/911019992

    Why does the GOP need candidates who are going to vote with and endorse Democrats? What the hell is the point of that?

    Doesn’t Newt feel stupid now?

  23. Gabriel Hanna asks: “Doesn’t Newt feel stupid now?”

    I donno about Newt, but I’m not looking too good over this. Well, I didn’t really endorse her, so I can wiggle out of this one.

  24. Gabriel Hanna

    I donno about Newt, but I’m not looking too good over this.

    I am your guest, and you are our gracious host, so I thought this was better left UNSPOKEN, but I did THINK it.

    It’s not enough to say whatever it takes to get elected. A party needs to stand for something, or why would anyone identify with it? And it doesn’t do any good to get people in with Rs after their names if they only ever vote with Ds.

  25. Gabriel Hanna says: “… I thought this was better left UNSPOKEN, but I did THINK it.”

    I know. I was too focused on the likelihood that Hoffman was a creationist — with no evidence for it except that he was being endorsed by creationists. I didn’t step back to look at the big picture.

    Well, when you blog every day, there’s gonna be days like this.

  26. Hero or Villain?

    I do not know either Doug Hoffman, or Dierdre Scozzafava, but wanted to throw a hypothetical out there for your consideration.

    Suppose Doug is a literal creationist, and wants to overturn the 1st amendment to help spread the “TRUTH”.

    Do you support, and vote for him any way (anything to keep out those democrats), and hope that his ambitions never come to fruition. Or go for the democrat, who you may disagree with on several major policies, but does not threaten the 1st amendment and education?

  27. Flakey, I’ve pondered that dilemma. See: The Lady or the Tiger?