Making Sense of New York’s Ninth

Let’s get something straight.  The Democrats’ loss in the New York 9th was not due to any particular grand strategy on the part of the Right and the Republican Party, nor is it an indication that this district – about as blue as any in the nation – is in danger of turning red.  Like the other special election in upstate New York – the 26th – in which Democrats were falling over each other in jubilation when it flipped back in May, districts are what they ostensibly are, nothing more nothing less.

So why did the 9th, like the 26th before it, turn so drastically and definitively on a dime after decades of voter consistency?  One word: ineptitude.  Nothing else explains this debacle.  Please spare me the half-assed explanations about how Bob Turner manipulated voters with lies and distortions about Dave Weprin’s (alleged) anti-Israel sentiment, or his gay rights’ stance, or his support of the downtown Mosque; they are nothing more than pitiful excuses for an otherwise dreadful and arrogantly presumptuous campaign.  Truth is, Weprin had no business running in the first place; he didn’t even live in the damn district!

In fact, the special elections in both the 26th and 9th districts are almost carbon copies of each other in that, in each instance, the incumbent party was taken completely by surprise after outspending their opponents by wide margins defending candidates who were, to put it mildly and delicately, clearly in over their heads.  In the case of the 26th it was the Paul Ryan backlash over Medicare that contributed to the GOP loss; in the 9th, well let’s just say that the name of Anthony Weiner will forever be synonymous with the greatest punch line in political humor.


The loss of the 9th district was particularly distressing, given the fact that Democrats are already badly outnumbered in the House to begin with.  This latest fiasco just makes things that much worse, not to mention embarrassing.

Still, there’s reason to be optimistic.  In all likelihood the 9th will go blue again in 2012 – remember this was just a special election to complete this congressional term – as Democrats manage to find someone competent enough to run and who, hopefully, lives in the district.  Unfortunately for them, the victory will be short-lived, as they will almost certainly cede the 26th back to the Republicans.  That’s just the way things go in politics.  You win some; you lose some.  The moral of this story is quite simple: while you can’t always teach an old dog new tricks, every once in a while you can get him to roll over and play dead.