By Gregory Jefferson
The Republican Party has been given a lot of rope and it
may finally be hanging itself. President Bush's recently declining
poll numbers may be the first indication. There seems to be
a growing sense that this administration, which has long been
given a pass by the national media, is now being called to
Since Lee Atwater ran those vicious Willie Horton ads in
the 1988 presidential election, the Republican Party found
that it could win elections using a brutal and cynical strategy.
Enhanced by Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, and coordinated with
right wing publications and radio hosts, their strategy has
been to barrage Democrats with a coordinated stream of baseless
or exaggerated allegations that mire Democrats in self-defense.
The truth or accuracy of the allegations is irrelevant. Only
their inflammatory and destructive quality matters. The theory
is that by keeping Democrats on the defensive they can not
deliver their message. If some of the dirt sticks, well, so
much the better.
The effectiveness of this theory relies on a few basic techniques.
For instance, the accusations are made loudly and indignantly
and from multiple sources, giving the ring of truth. Then,
they sit back and watch Democrats try to defend themselves
while Republicans simply refuse to be convinced. The debate
is prodded along by contrived Republican outrage and a large
dose of arrogance. Their phony allegations soon become the
central focus of political debate. After a while, the accusations
seem to evolve into a known truth in the public mind, like
some urban legend.
The result of this strategy is that today, many people really
do believe that Michael Dukakis was systematically releasing
dangerous criminals from prison. Some really do believe that
Bill Clinton was a draft-dodging, dope-smoking, drug-running
rapist who killed people that opposed him. Some people believe
with unrecognized inconsistency that Hillary Clinton is a
lesbian who was having an affair with Vince Foster, whom she
subsequently had murdered.
With Republicans in control of Congress during the Clinton
Administration, they played their hand all the way out to
impeachment. And while they knew they didn't have the votes
to sustain it in the Senate, and they knew there were no impeachable
offenses, they played it for all of the short term political
advantage they could, best interest of the country be damned.
They were further emboldened.
In their campaign to take the White House in 2000, this
Republican strategy took on an added dimension. Sure, they
continued the lies about Democrats. They accused Al Gore of
claiming to have invented the Internet and to have illegally
raised campaign money. But in 2000, they extended their propagation
of lies to include the manufactured image of their own candidate,
George W. Bush. Not in the usual, glossy, exaggerated way
that many campaigns do. In this case, they created a complete
fiction, an absolute reverse image of the man they wanted
us to elect as president; a sort of Manchurian candidate.
Bush was held out to be a successful businessman, a moral
leader, a compassionate conservative, a uniter and not a divider.
He was sold as a champion of the enlisted soldier, an opponent
of nation-building, a balancer of budgets, a promoter of education,
a guarantor of healthcare and a protector of the environment.
Clearly, he did not turn out to be any of those things.
But now, as the 2004 election approaches, the Bush White House
is trying to sell the same old bar of soap. And it's not selling.
And not only is it not selling, the American people are realizing
that they were lied to four years ago and they are getting
angry. But while the American people are getting a bad taste
in their mouth, it may be Bush's mouth that gets washed out
with that old bar of soap in November. Here's why.
The American voters know that 9/11 did not justify eliminating
our civil liberties. The recession did not justify massive
and repeated tax cuts for the wealthy. Nonexistent weapons
of mass destruction did not justify invading Iraq. Recession
did not cause the $521 billion budget deficit this year.
American voters also know that the Iraqi occupation is not
only nation-building at its worst, it is a quid quo pro to
a corporate roster of Republican financiers. And they know
that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won't
begin to solve our energy problems; it is just a sop to big
oil. They know that Attorney General John Ashcroft is not
working for our protection, but that he has worked to eliminate
our basic protections from search, seizure and wiretaps, and
against our basic right to counsel. And they know that denying
the existence of global warming will not make it go away.
These Republican zealots say that a lie about sex justifies
impeachment, yet they lie about the reason for taking the
country to war. They bitterly claim that Bill Clinton was
wagging the dog when he fired cruise missiles at bin Laden,
and then complain that Clinton should have done more. They
start a war claiming to enforce United Nations resolutions,
against the will of the United Nations. These are the people
who began a federal investigation of Janet Jackson's costume
within one day of her Super Bowl show, yet fought the creation
of the 9/11 Commission for over a year. And they claim to
be patriots, caring about country over self.
They are hypocrites. And there isn't much that the American
people resent more than hypocrites. Ask Jimmy Swaggart or
Rush Limbaugh or Bill Bennett.
Yes, it now appears that despite all of the smoke and mirrors,
the American voters are catching on to the Republican politics
of personal destruction, their reactionary agenda, their looting
of the national treasury, their disregard for the environment,
their arrogance towards our allies, and their bogus war. And
the American voters are getting their fill. They are beginning
to realize that George W. Bush should be run out of town on
a rail; a rail made slick with that same old bar of soap.