The Marriage Amendment Strategy genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation
There has been ample discussion in the media and on the internet that seems to view the pending vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as another coming failure for the Bush administration. I disagree. Isn't this move really intended to remind the base (and particularly those on the far right that voted in record numbers in 2004) that they must be vigilant...that there is more work to be done...that they mustn't stay at home in the 2006 midterm election?
If I were asked to predict the Bush and Rove strategy, the following would be my calculations and conclusions:
1) The President is generally unpopular...especially when Iraq is part of the equation. The risk is that Iraq, coupled with corruption, Katrina, big debt, uncontrolled spending, and other scandals might feed a mindset to throw out the Party in power. Therefore they have to change the subject or provide the risks and reasons that would make that a bad idea.
2) What can the President bring to bear on the 2006 elections? He can't travel the country stumping for Republicans because his presence will remind people about Iraq and the other negatives.
3) However, he can bring what he brought in 2004...a big turnout by those on the religious right. Those voters either don't vote or they vote their values. The key is getting them to vote by giving them a reason. That is done in consort with religious leaders through the church structure...no need to be out on the campaign trail...the voters will get their marching orders each Sunday.
4) He can do that by reminding those voters (by virtue of a defeat of the marriage amendment) that they must get out and vote Republican. Losing the vote on the amendment is a strategic victory. They wouldn't bring it to a vote if it made voters stay home in November. The grumbling by the leadership on the right is part of the strategy...they also benefit when their flock is mad...they can raise more money...and they can motivate them to take action. The leadership may be mad at Bush on some levels but they are fully in sync when it comes to keeping their eye on the main objective. Simply stated, if Bush delivers the Supreme Court, all other sins are forgivable.
5) So the goal is to be sure to point out that they succeeded in appointing two conservative Supreme Court Justices...and make it clear that one more appointment will likely mean victory for the movement for the next 20 years. They have to make it clear that if they lose the Senate, they may lose the ability to win the Supreme Court. This is the trump card of the strategy...they simply point out how close the movement is to achieving the "final" victory...they acknowledge to the voters that the administration has had some troubles (recall the admission of mistakes at the press conference with Tony Blair...no doubt part of the overall strategy) but they have never lost sight of the big prize...they delivered two conservative votes and they just need one more...the voters have got to stick with them if they want the big prize.
6) Is there any doubt what drives these voters? Does anyone question the fervor with which they seek to assert their influence? Is it possible they would stay at home if they understand what's at stake? Not a chance.
As much as I might dislike Karl Rove and as little as I might respect George Bush, I would never underestimate their strategic prowess. Many strategists seek to minimize chaos and conflict but I tend to think Karl Rove prefers to manage and manipulate chaos and conflict. The distinction is significant and it requires the outside observer to alter the template used for viewing and analyzing the many actions and activities. Has this administration made mistakes governing...absolutely? Have they made mistakes campaigning...none to speak of to this point in time? Time and again I see articles and statements that attempt to conflate the two...which I see as a mistake. I believe the mistake is a misattribution of motivations and priorities.
While one might be inclined to think that a President measures his success in the achievements made under his governance, I'm inclined to believe that this President is more motivated by and places a greater priority upon winning elections because I believe he sees it as the only means to obtain and maintain power. In this type of thinking, all else is secondary to victory. If one continues to maintain office, one can continue to assert power. I'm inclined to believe that the legacy sought by George Bush is in having shifted the country to the right...not just during his tenure, but for decades beyond his years in office.