Fear and Loathing: The nu-GOP Campaign Trail


THEBHC / Anything They Say / Sept. 1, 2006
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With the November elections fast approaching, the Republican Party have opened up a number of fronts in their campaign assault to maintain control of Capitol Hill. For the last few months, a number of states have enacted new laws that are seen as leading efforts to disenfranchise typically Democratic voting blocks. Six Republican-controlled states, Indiana, Arizona, California, Missouri, and of course, our old friends in Ohio and Florida, have already passed various voter ID laws that will doubtless disenfranchise Democratic voters far more than others. Recently, a federal judge struck down a 2004 Florida law that restricted and punished activities of third party voter registration groups, a result that will be too little too late with respect to elections in November; appeals are guaranteed to hold this in court for sometime.

Furthermore, the Republican House showed little regard for election law when Speaker Dennis Hastert swore in Brian Bilbray as the newest Republican member of Congress, despite the fact that the election had not even been certified at that point, given the ongoing dispute surrounding that contentious California election and its employment of uncertified Diebold voting machines. Fueling outrage, a judge has pronounced that Congress has jurisdictional priority rather than the State of California now that the swearing-in has taken place; no recourse in the election dispute can be provided by California courts. In other words, regardless of the outcome of an election, a swearing-in cermony effectively nullifies an election result and makes Congress's pronouncement of House membership the final say in the matter. What have we learned from this exercise?

There is yet another way to steal an election and who knows how many more are heretofore unknown.

Much of this is happening, as it oftens does, underneath the radar of the mainstream media. But other campaign assaults are easily observed, as with the recent public appearances of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush, who, on cue from Karl Rove, have taken up the mantle of critic-bashing, with Rumsfeld even likening his critics to Nazi appeasers. Though there was a rather harsh backlash to Rumsfeld's stupidity, the White House is once again demonstrating mastery of the media as it looks to paint war critics as terrorist-friendly wimps and the media dutifully trots it all out. Democrats, as usual, are on the defensive, always finding themselves responding to the latest outrageous GOP rhetoric rather than actually attacking themselves. This has been the familiar campaign pattern for years now, and it still looks like the Dems have yet to figure out how to go on the attack. Or rather, they haven't figured out how to get the media to let them go on the attack.

Perhaps one of the best examples of the media giving the bullhorn to GOP propaganda was a recent story that appeared on the front pages of both The New York Times and The Washington Post, wherein Republican staffers had produced a "report" about their disenchantment with intelligence agencies as regards Iran. It was complete bunk, of course, their griping about the lack of intelligence on Iranian weapons programs echoing the Iraqi WMD fiacso to a tee. While the "report" was seen for what it really was by anyone familiar with this media game, these stories' general effects had already been cast upon the public --Republicans worry about Iran's potential to harm America -- while truth in the matter slumped in the corner at the editorial offices of the newspapers as the dull and hulking shadow of Judy Miller hovered nearby, demanding fealty to the Republican message.

Earlier, the media played hapless messenger to other GOP campaign mendacity when Rick Santorum and Peter Hoekstra had announced that they and they alone had discovered Iraq's elusive WMD. This was about the most idiotic thing to appear in quite sometime -- it was utter fiction as the Defense Department itself declaimed against this "discovery." But Fox News parlayed the claim into a days-long discussion, with Hannity leading the charge of the light-headed brigade. The lie had had the intended effect, as recent polls showed that 50% of the American public now believes WMD were found in Iraq, up from 36% a year ago. Once again, the bullhorn had been given to Republicans while even the Department of Defense protests were muffled and Democrats fluttered in the background.

Add all this to the recent and fully amplified fear factor surrounding the recent and eminently non-imminent British terror plot and the preferred political climate of the GOP had moved in like a storm front. But there is more on the way, to be sure, as Republicans are discovering the curious fact that Bush's popularity, and by extension Republicans' prospects in November, appears to be closely correlated with the price of gasoline. I think we can all see what that means and should fully expect gas prices to continue to drop at least until the election, after which Big Oil will then be unconstrained by worry for their Republican majorities in Congress.

We also have the anniversary of September 11, 2001 to look forward to. Media outlets across the dial have extravagant, big-splash specials planned, not only on the day itself, but a near continuous trail of tears and fears is planned over the next ten days. Perhaps the most egregious effort is expected to come from ABC, which plans for the evenings of September 10-11 a special called The Path to 9/11, whereby the American public, or at least the few who still watch ABC, will learn that 9/11 was really all Bill Clinton's fault. Which means, of course, that Democrats are "soft on terror." Widespread debunking of this tripe will not be forthcoming and certainly not in the mainstream media, which will likely treat the anniversary as a time to issue paeans to George Bush and his "leadership" on the day when no one could find him, once he had folded up his his copy of My Pet Goat. However, for those disposed to learning something about Clinton's efforts and the incredible inaction on the part of the Bush administration, William Rivers Pitt offers a good article in refutation of the ABC propaganda. Not that this will do much good, as the Bush-with-a-bullhorn myth is expected to be broadcast far and wide, two months, as it is, before the elections.

All of these efforts will have their inevitable effects upon the outcome in November. As is often said, corporations don't spend $250 billion a year on advertsing because it doesn't do anything. And neither should we expect all this Republican advertising to not have its intended effect. Despite recent reports that poverty has increased, the number of uninsured is at a record high, and the middle class has been hollowed out by six years of Bush's economic agenda, headlines continue to blare that the jobless rate has fallen -- by a miniscule amount, 0.63% -- and the media allows the Bush administration to trumpet that the economy is "growing well", its sole metric being the increase in the country's Gross Domestic Product. Six years of the Bush economy have seen the median income drop and an annual increase in number of Americans living in poverty, but the GDP is up! The uninsured, the poor, Katrina's huddle masses; none of these Americans matter. All that matters is The Number.

With voter suppression laws and Deibold voting machines installed in crucial states and terror episodes announced with increasing frequency -- the media, as they have done before every election since 9/11, have tacitly given the Republicans center stage -- both efforts of which will "swing" important, contentious seats toward the GOP. This is happening while Democrats are marginalized by ad hominen name-calling and hover in wings, on their heels almost all the time. Don't look for the Democrats to make many in-roads in November. They may gains a handful of seats -- if that -- but with the obvious efforts being put forth, no one should expect Republicans to loose either majority.

And then we can all look forward to a continuation of every dispicable, failed policy that the Republicans have trotted out and Americans, as unaware of all of this as ever, will suffer under the yoke of this administration's brutality while they continue to be told to fret about the comings and goings of Paris Hilton. Oh, and that everything, everything, is Bill Clinton's fault.