Is The Right Using Rove's 2004 Playbook? And If So, Will It Work?

Kevin Drum wonders if this year will be another 2010:

Will 2012 Be a Reprise of 2010's Summer of Hate?

July and August of 2010 were a festival of xenophopia and racial rage from the news organs of the right. Among the topics that generated wall-to-wall coverage on a serial basis that summer were (1) the New Black Panthers, (2) Arizona's new immigration law, (3) the "anchor baby" controversy, (4) the "Ground Zero" mosque, (5) the Shirley Sherrod affair, (6) a new upwelling of birther conspiracy theories, (7) Glenn Beck's obsession with Barack Obama's supposed sympathy with "liberation theology," and (8) Dinesh D'Souza's contention -- eagerly echoed by Newt Gingrich -- that Barack Obama can only be understood as an angry, Kenyan, anti-colonialist. Plus I'm probably forgetting a few.

But last summer was pretty quiet. Maybe the right had finally learned its lesson? As it turns out, no. Apparently it's just that 2011 wasn't an election year, so there was no point in pushing racial hot buttons all summer long. But 2012 is very much an election year and things are heating up early this time around....

He's talking about the Derrick Bell "Hug-Gate" story. But that's not the only way the right seems to be doubling down on what seems to be an alienate-the-center strategy. There's also the obsession with anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation in Republican-controlled state legislatures (and to some extent in Congress). And, on the presidential campaign trail, Republicans are running far to the right on immigration, tax rates for the rich, and virtually every other issue.

Is this Karl Rove's 2004 electoral plan all over again? Or, rather, is it Karl Rove's 2004 electoral plan on crystal meth?

That year, Rove pursued what was called the "base strategy": instead of running his presidential candidate to the center to pick up swing voters, he concentrated on motivating and turning out voters in the base. It worked, if barely.

I think what we're seeing is a manic, crazed version of that strategy. I'm just not sure it'll work this time.

In '04, a lot of swing voters stuck with Bush because 9/11 was still fresh in their minds and the Iraq War still seemed to them like an appropriate response to that Al Qaeda attack; they felt we shouldn't "change horses midstream." Mitt Romney, of course, has nothing of the sort going for him.

Bush also continued to seem personally endearing to a lot of people in '04, including some swing voters. But that's another way that 2012 is different. Romney is hard to warm up to. If anything, Romney is the John Kerry of this race.

So Bush had the advantage of a war and he won on personality -- and yet he still barely won the election, despite getting his base fired up. And, of course, he personally fired up the base that year. The base loved him. The right this year seems to be trying to fire up the base without a presidential candidate the base wants to vote for.

And if 2010 is already much nastier than 2004 was. Back then you had flip-flopping and Swift-boating. Those were attacks on Kerry. This year, it looks as if there'll be attacks on everyone except old white people. That's going to turn off a lot of swing voters. (Women already seem to be recoiling in horror.)

So it doesn't seem like a great plan. But I think it really is a plan.



No More Mister Nice Blog / By Steve M

Posted at March 10, 2012, 7:23am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018