WE'LL JUST MOVE ON TO ANOTHER ALLITERATIVE TRIO, WON'T WE?
Timothy Egan of The New York Times thinks we've finally put "Gays, Guns, and God" behind us -- and he's in the mood to celebrate:
How do you praise the sanctity of traditional heterosexual marriage when the best-known nuptials of the year, between a Kardashian and a basketball player, lasted all of 72 days? Or, for that matter, when a possible Republican nominee for president, Newt Gingrich, cares so much about marriage that he’s tried it three times?
You don't. The above mockeries of marriage are just the latest reasons one of the most potent wedge issues of American politics -- the banner of gays, guns and God -- will have little impact next year.
...look at this week's New York Times/CBS News Poll of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, about as conservative a cohort of voters as anywhere in the country. Iowa, for Republicans, is where gays, guns and God will grow in political fields long after corn is no longer planted for ethanol subsidies.
Topping the list of voter concerns was the economy and jobs -- picked by 40 percent of respondents, followed by the budget deficit at 23 percent. Social issues came in a distant third, with 9 percent. And the candidate who polled highest as the one who "most represents the values you try to live by," Michele Bachmann, has nothing to show for that rating in the overall race, where she is in fifth place....
I think he has a point -- although these issues mean less right now largely because the economy is unspeakably awful, and thus is most people's top priority. Meanwhile, Obama is religious enough to mollify enough swing voters, and he's stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, a hedge that keeps that issue from becoming important in this cycle (though the public's acceptance of gays in the military is a striking sign of societal progress). On guns, well, the gun crazies have thought from the beginning that Obama's a grabber, and would think that no matter what he did, so the issue is essentially settled.
Now, if these issues aren't a big deal this year, then we've moved on as a nation -- right?
Well, no. Forty years ago, another three-word alliterative phrase was hung around the neck of the Democratic candidate -- "Amnesty, Abortion, and Acid." (Robert Novak claimed credit for the formulation.) Were we better off when the three A's were no longer at the forefront of the nation's political consciousness? No, because Democrats were still reviled as hippies, and because the three A's gave way to the three G's.
And three G's have given way to ... well, I've struggled with this one, and the best I can come up with is the three S's: socialism, soft power, and sophistication. That's unsatisfactory, because no right-winger would ever actually use that as a slogan, but it more or less encompasses what the right hates about Democrats and liberals. All government social programs are "socialism"; the seeming reluctance of the Obama administration and other Democrats to bomb the bejeezus out of any brown person who looks at us crosswise is an unmanly preference for soft power (pay no attention to all those assassinations and drone attacks); and "sophistication" is a catch-all term for the Cambridge-to-D.C. axis, Hollyweird, San Francisco, multi-racialism (Kenya! Indonesia!), and treating any issue whatsoever as nuanced.
These may not be the three alliterative words of our time, but the problem is the same: it's absurdly easy to get many voters to reject Democrats based on simplistic stereotypes that are so well ingrained they're impossible to refute.
Is anyone better at alliteration than I am? What's the three-word stereotype of our times?
UPDATE: Title corrected, weeks late.