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 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 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.

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 10:22 AM
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1 On June 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM, dave s wrote —

best assesment of GOP strategy I've read

2 On June 2, 2006 at 8:08 PM, Daniel wrote —


Thanks for your comment...much appreciated!


3 On June 3, 2006 at 12:53 PM, Brian Malloy wrote —


Your logic is not just completely right on target, but downright scarey. In particular, you're unequivocally right is your assessment of the Bush/Rove strategy -- they don't really care how many mistakes they make governing, so long as they distract the people from these mistakes and thereby continue to govern.

To slightly rephrase your argument: Bush/Rove never fail to motivate their base. They do so using fear. And what is it that the religious right fears most -- gay people. Or, more importantly, the religious right fear acceptance of gay people and the passing of laws to protect gay rights.

In other words, the GOP is in power because Bush/Rove have always been able to motivate their base, enrage them or simply scare the hell out of them.

And this points out the completely obvious failure of the democrats -- they not only cannot motivate their base, they seem to have abondoned them. The democrats seem more interested in trying to appeal to the middle and are ignoring, or even angering, their base.

Thus, there are two sins that a politician can commit: (1) failing to motivate their base, and (2) abandoning their base. That's the sin that Joe Lieberman has committed, and I believe that John Kerry slowly and inexhorably committed the same sins during his (un)successful bid for the presidency in 2004: by the time of the election it was hard to distinguish the positions of Kerry and Bush.

So what choice do progressives have? There are very few progressive democratic candidates still in the political picture. What few there have been were squelched by their own party, good idealistic people such as Paul Hackett. You always seem to strike such a pragmatic, logical balance and I have come to agree with your comments to me in your other post about Ned Lamont vs Joe Lieberman: the democratic strategy should be to win. To take over either the House or Senate. And as you point out, the more important and more difficult of the two is the Senate.

How do we scare the hell out of democrats. An unprovoked attack on a soverign country didn't do it. Ignoring the people of New Orleans, the appointment of two right wing idealogues to the Supreme Court, the threat of nuking Iran and wire tapping everyone in the country didn't do it. Even scandals such as Abu Graihb, Guantanamo, Abramoff, DeLay, Frist, Ney, Cunningham, and Libby haven't done it.

What's worse is that democrats don't seem to be scared of gay people at all. They're not even afraid of the fact that our country has become a theocracy. Democrats aren't afraid of anything, even losing!!

So I have to appeal to your superior logic, political sense and analysis: how do democrats take back anything? Or should we just look for a good republican, for example Michael Bloomberg??


4 On June 4, 2006 at 11:31 AM, Daniel wrote —


Thanks for your comments and observations. I really enjoy the dialogue.

I started to reply to this comment and the other one you offered in another thread and I ended up concluding that I would do a new posting to address your remarks and questions. I hope you don’t object that I have mentioned your first name in the posting. The posting is titled, “Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue".

Again, I greatly appreciate your comments and perspectives and I hope we can continue a productive dialogue.


P.S. I failed to address your question about Michael Bloomberg...partly because I ran out of time and partly because I wanted to think a bit further about candidates before responding. I do find Bloomberg's recent candor intriguing. I'll try to address this in a subsequent posting.

5 On June 5, 2006 at 9:43 AM, Clint Richards wrote —

Great commentary, succinctly shows the bush/rove play book perfectly. With regard to bloomberg: I am very, very leary of his recent willingness to support gay marriage. Why didn't he say this when it wasn't about to be brought up in congress? It feels like pandering to me. I think he's a sacrificial offering to the liberals. It'll just stir up the rightwingnuts (who don't live in NY anyway), to get out to the polls. They must vote to stave off some evil, leftish Republican New York mayor-like character before he takes over YOUR TOWN AND FORCES YOUR CHILDREN into a life of deviant behavior!

6 On June 5, 2006 at 5:37 PM, Daniel wrote —


Thank you for your comments and observations.

You may be right about Bloomberg...perhaps he's just attempting to position himself for some future political aspiration. Nonetheless, he has made some remarks about immigration and the workings of Washington that were refreshingly candid. Could it be pandering...sure...after all he's a politician, right?

I hope to hear more of your thoughts in the future.


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