By all that's holy, let's quickly but definitively hone in of the enduring lesson of the special election in New York's 26th congressional election, won by Democrat Kathy Hochul in a heavily Republican area.
Hochul beat GOP candidate Jane Corwin, pulling about 48 percent of the vote. Corwin got 42 percent and a fake Tea Party candidate Jack Davis (he was actually to the left of the Dem) pulled about 8 percent.
The one clear lesson is the one least mentioned: If your party vacates a seat because the conservative, married incumbent was caught trolling on chicks via Craigslist, you've got a real problem on your hands. You'd have thought that lesson was learned via the Mark Foley scandal, when maf54's seat turned Dem after the Republican incumbent resigned after cyberstalking congressional pages.
That first truth is the one the commentariat will be least interested in. They've already declared that the Hochul victory was all about "Mediscare" tactics and a clear repudiation of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the evil/valiant GOP plan to destroy/save Medicare and kill/protect seniors. There's no question that the politics of Medicare reform is a thorny one. Everyone knows the system is a fiscal train wreck that threatens to bankrupt the government. Those of us who follow reports issued by Democrats such as Christina Romer and the Obama administration also know that "nearly 30 percent of Medicare's costs could be saved without adverse health consequences." Which is to say that the program is massively inefficient at delivering health care along with being massively expensive. Actually getting to a real conversation about how to fix the program (I would favor scrapping it altogether and replacing it with something like Medicaid for poor seniors who cannot afford to pay for their own health care) as opposed to demonizing anybody who ever says anything about it is gonna take like forever. And just to be clear, Republicans and Democrats do this constantly. But that conversation will happen and I hope it starts now and proceeds through the 2012 election and beyond. If we don't fix Medicare, the government's rotten bottom line and all attendant problems will only get worse.
A final point about NY 26: The election suggests that what Matt Welch likes to call "non-governing minorities" are alive and well and coming to a race near you. Note that the election was three-way and that the third place finisher more than covered the spread. What comes through is the reality that with the rise of independent voters whose loyalty must be earned in each race and with each policy, a lot of stuff is up for grabs. Which is a good thing if you don't consider yourself a D or an R.