Last week's stunner in Massachusetts holds a lesson for the New York GOP. Sen.-elect Scott Brown, though running on the Republican ticket, never mentioned his party in his campaign speech.
Instead, he campaigned as an independent and a proud member of the tea party movement. He knew that the palpable anger of voters is directed against both major political parties.
The New York State Republican Party needs to embrace the tea partyers and the anti-establishment fervor of those who are furious with both the years of President George W. Bush's massive deficit spending and President Barack Obama's even greater federal spending.
The anti-establishment sentiment that took the Kennedy seat away from the Democrats in Massachusetts is woven from the same cloth as the rejection in New York of the Pataki-D'Amato years.
Under Gov. George Pataki, with his patron Sen. Al D'Amato pulling behind-the-scene strings, Albany's spending exploded as these so-called conservatives played interest-group politics.
The result? Over three terms, voters grew increasingly fed up with Pataki. And that paved the way for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Gov. David A. Paterson, and soon, most likely, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
No Republican has a chance to win back the governorship, according to recent polling.
Nassau County in 2001 provides another example of GOP fiscal mismanagement that caused independent and fiscally conservative Republican voters, with the same DNA as today's tea partyers, to abandon the party and vote for a Democrat who preached fiscal responsibility.
This year, every office in New York State government, as well as both U.S. Senate seats, is up for election. Republicans ought to be able to win some — even all — of these seats. But it will not be enough merely to oppose the Democratic incumbents.
To tap into the anger that elected Scott Brown, Republicans need to promise a strict fiscal discipline not seen when they last ruled Albany.
There's hope that they are learning this lesson. This past November, the GOP won two county executive positions, in Nassau and Westchester, after its candidates campaigned on their counties' disastrous fiscal situations and offered some specific plans for fixes.
If the Republicans are to win back the State Senate and have a shot at the governor's mansion, they will have to address the state's dismal fiscal picture with a specific plan that attacks all sacred cows equally.
The tea party movement — independent fiscal voters furious over the cavalier way both parties have dampened our economy — will not accept typical political payback and parliamentary games in Albany.
The state Republicans have a new leader, Edward Cox, at their helm. This is the moment to turn away from past practices that squandered too many local and statewide offices. In November, we'll see if they finally get it.
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