Larison is very perceptive in cutting through the fog of triumphal pronouncements about the alleged resurgence of conservatism that the current NY special election for congress is supposed to indicate:
The GOP seems to be making what ought to be an easy win into a national Phyrrhic victory in which the relative strength of conservative activists inside the party becomes vastly exaggerated and identifies the flailing, failing party even more closely with its conservative members. This will make it very difficult for conservative activists to disassociate themselves from the outcome of the midterms next year. What I find strange in the fixation on NY-23 is that the off-year gubernatorial elections probably serve as a much better indicator of large-scale movements in public opinion. Larger, more diverse electorates in large states are involved in Virginia and New Jersey. If things go as I expect them to with a Republican pick-up in Virginia and a Democratic hold in New Jersey, the message will be rather muddled. It will mean that Virginia will have chosen a Northern Virginia moderate who successfully ran away from his earlier social conservatism while New Jersey re-elected an incumbent who was thought to be highly vulnerable and discredited by corruption. Those results could be explained by pointing to the nature of the electorates in both states, but this does not lend itself to a triumphant narrative of Republican resurgence fueled by true believers. The point here is not to write off conservative insurgents or reject protest candidacies provoked by the failures and mistakes of state and local party leaders. These are appropriate and sometimes necessary responses to elected and party officials’ blunders. What also matters is being willing to acknowledge that the political landscape is not necessary what we wish it is or think it ought to be. Hoffmania and its attendant privileging of ideology over actual local interests suggest that a great many conservatives cannot and will not acknowledge this.
This nice dose of sanity speaks volumes against some of the ridiculous claims that have been made — often by evangelicals — about how “real America” is somehow revolting against Obama. One pundit even claimed that this obscure special election somehow proved that “the Obama brand” will be dead in 2010 (2 months to go, folks!).
Doses of sanity such as Larison provides here are quite welcome these days.