May the best Karl Rove win

Ah, College Republicans! What would we do without them. Senior Editor Franklin Foer offers the gory details in The New Republic:

Everyone who watched this summer's race for College Republican National Committee (CRNC) chair with any detachment has a favorite moment of chutzpah they admire in spite of themselves. Leading the count are the following: speaking sotto voce of your opponent's "homosexuality"; rigging the delegate count so that states that support your candidate have twice as many votes as those that don't; and using a sitting congressman to threaten the careers of undecided voters.
All of which explains why the GOP is Karl Rove's party of choice -- and how he became CRNC chair in 1973. (I'll return to Foer's 'detached' tone of admiration a little later)

But such tactics seem hardly surprising for members of an organization that until recently employed equally creative methods of fundraising:
How does one raise $9 million in a year for a group like College Republicans? For starters, it is important to obscure the ultimate destination of the funds. The College Republicans sent out their solicitations on the letterhead of such nonexistent groups as "Republican Headquarters 2004" and "Republican Elections Committee." Next, it helps to fill the missives with as much emotion as a Wagnerian opera. "Apparently the Democrats don't have any concern about hurting you, your family or America," one letter read. "Their sole concern is revenge--vengeance--retribution." The most infamous of these missives included an American flag lapel pin. It urged recipients to pray over the pin and return it, along with $1,000. According to the letter, the pin would be worn by the president as he accepted the Republican nomination: "I could have sent you your own lapel pin, but I knew that it wouldn't mean nearly as much to you as being able to give a special gift to President Bush during this challenging time." This letter, incidentally, bore the signature of Paul Gourley (The candidate who won this year's race for CRNC chair).
Finally, it helps to send these letters to senior citizens, who are lonely and sometimes suffering from dementia. "I don't have any more money," Cecilia Barbier, a 90-year-old retired church council worker and College Republicans contributor, told the Seattle Times. "I'm stopping giving to everybody. That was all my savings that they got." In a single year, Barbier made 300 donations for the organization, adding up to $100,000.
These are merely the lowlights of a very long article that creates the sensation usually experienced when staring down a deep abyss. The kind of stuff that will make any American fear for the future of our country, irrespective of party affiliation. Except, of course, if you possess the "detachment" of a Franklin Foer, who ends his otherwise excellent piece with this:
A few weeks after the convention, I got in touch with the newly reelected president of College Democrats, Grant Woodard of Grinnell College. For his uncontested race, he said he raised $2,000--$198,000 less than Michael Davidson's estimated take. Unlike the College Republicans, Democratic students are not organized as an independent 527. They reside within the Democratic National Committee and exist largely to supply campaign volunteers. Woodard makes all his calls after 9 p.m., "when I get free cell phone minutes," he told me. His salary is $75,000 lower than the one Chairman Paul Gourley receives--that is to say, nonexistent. The contrast between the two organizations is remarkably vivid.
When the liberal Center for American Progress sent a blogger to the CRNC convention, she returned horrified by what she'd witnessed and sentimental about the Democratic operation: "I much prefer our movement with blue jeans, diversity, goofy kids, birkenstocks and good beer (none of that Busch light crap). We've definitely gotta step up the field based organizing, but let's make sure we're enjoying it. And each other." Considering their current losing streak, Democrats might want to spend more time contemplating the contrast between the two styles of political education. How often do Birkenstocks trod the road to victory? Can you really count on goofy kids in a knife fight?
More alarming than the College Republicans are "liberal" journalists who believe that the road to success lies in emulating a style of politics that is already destroying the nation. And yet to raise that objection is to be dismissed -- much as the CAP blogger -- as a naive lefty. But if the Franklin Foers of the world have their way, American voters can look forward to choosing between two Karl Roves, engaged in an escalating war of dirty tricks on their way to the White House. And that may spell "victory" for Democrats, but not, I fear, for democracy. [LINK via Wonkette]

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