Saturday, April 21, 2012


I see this in The New York Times today:

Concern in G.O.P. Over State Focus on Social Issues

... this year, with the nation heading into the heart of a presidential race and voters consumed by the country's economic woes, much of the debate in statehouses has centered on social issues.

Tennessee enacted a law this month intended to protect teachers who question the theory of evolution. Arizona moved to ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, and Mississippi imposed regulations that could close the state's only abortion clinic. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a law allowing the state's public schools to teach about abstinence instead of contraception.

The recent flurry of socially conservative legislation, on issues ranging from expanding gun rights to placing new restrictions on abortion, comes as Republicans at the national level are eager to refocus attention on economic issues.

Some Republican strategists and officials ... fear that the attention these divisive social issues are receiving at the state level could harm the party's chances in November, when its hopes of winning back the White House will most likely rest with independent voters in a handful of swing states.

One seasoned strategist called the problem potentially huge....

But do Republicans have any reason to worry? In 2010, a lot of us were rooting for the Democrats to nationalize the election by wrapping the words and deeds of extremely crazy Republicans around the necks of somewhat-less-crazy candidates from their party. And I recall that this strategy was considered and rejected by Democratic strategists. How'd that work out for the Dems?

But I'm guessing that the Democrats haven't learned their lesson. I'm guessing that they won't try to link every vulnerable Republican candidate, from Romney on down, to the GOP's worst extremists. And, in a way, I understand: it's a lot harder for Democrats to do this than it is for Republicans.

Republicans have a radio/TV/Internet noise machine that works round the clock finding people to demonize -- and linking every one of them to all Democrats. Everyone from Rosie O'Donnell to Frances Fox Piven, everyone from Common to Saul Alinsky, is a demonization target, and then every one of them is linked to your local Democratic officeholder or office-seeker. And so your Fox-loving neighbor thinks there really isn't an inch of ideological daylight between your Democratic congressman and some New Black Panther uttering empty threats on a local radio show no one listens to except right-wingers. Your low-info swing-voting neighbor may believe this, too. In any case, the evil-party narrative is already in place.

Democrats haven't even begun the process of arguing that the entire right, or even a substantial part of it, is scary and extreme and beyond the pale, and there's no reason to believe that Democrats will ever do this. They may be prepared to portray Romney as a right-wing extremist, and that may be an effective strategy, but they'll never portray the entire GOP (accurately) as rotten to the core.

Or maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. Otherwise, Romney may be defeated but fail to drag the party down with him, because the defeat will be of him personally, not of his entire extreme, twisted party.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

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