The ABC's Of The 2008 Presidential Election genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The ABC's

For a number of years, the GOP political strategy has been characterized by a focus upon three prevailing issues that many have chosen to call "God, guns, and gays". As we approach the 2008 election, there seems to be a growing belief that this effective trifecta is headed for the political trash heap. While I'm not ready to agree with that assumption, I do anticipate they will continue to lose their fail safe luster.

At the same time, I believe we are seeing the makings of a new list of issues which will be featured in the rhetoric of the GOP. Unfortunately, it appears that the underlying motivation for putting such topics front and center will continue to be the invocation of a bogeyman mentality...meaning some group must be established as the bad guys...those people who are jeopardizing our way of life.

Specifically, I expect to see illegal immigrants relegated to this role. Joining them will be Islamic extremists who will be portrayed as intent upon making Iraq the new Afghanistan...a haven for a radical ideology intent on destroying our Western way of life. Completing the triumvirate will be the Iranian government and the threat it poses should it succeed in obtaining nuclear weaponry.

There you have it. I'm predicting that the new GOP strategy will be summarized as, "Iraq and Iran, Islamic extremists, and illegal immigrants...or what I might be so bold as to call the demonization of "brown".

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that the GOP leadership is inherently biased or prejudice...or that they endorse across the board cultural condemnation...or that there aren't legitimate reasons to address these particular issues.

At the same time, I am suggesting that they wouldn't be opposed to being the benefactor of a strategy that seeks to foment this type of vilification (similar to what we saw in past campaigns with regard to gays) from those who identify themselves as members of the GOP voter constituency.

As I see it, illegal immigrants are about to unseat gays in holding the unfortunate GOP designation as the primary source of decline in America. They are fast becoming the new bogeyman.

A quick look at the remarks of the Republican presidential front-runners seems to support my contention. These candidates are each scrambling to position themselves as the lead proponent of a strong immigration policy and a sustained effort to stamp out Islamic radicalism...positions that seem to have wide appeal to GOP constituents.

From ABC News:

"We can end illegal immigration," Giuliani vowed to an audience of roughly 300 at a community center in Aiken, S.C., Tuesday morning. "I promise you, we can end illegal immigration."

Listed as one of his "12 commitments" to the American people, Giuliani promised to secure the borders and identify every noncitizen in the United States, noting the more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

"That's a lot of people to walk over your border without being identified," he said.

The two-term mayor proposed requiring the deportation of any illegal immigrant who commits a felony, building both a physical and a high-tech border fence, deploying a larger and better-trained border patrol, implementing a tamperproof identity card for all foreign workers and students with a single national database of noncitizens to track their status.

Giuliani these days emphasizes border control and casts immigration as a national security issue in light of Sept. 11.

"Real immigration reform must put security first because border security and homeland security are inseparable in the terrorists' war on us," Giuliani has said. "The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our citizens by controlling America's borders, while ending illegal immigration and identifying every noncitizen in our nation."

So we see Giuliani racing to oppose illegal immigration...despite a track record that has clearly been more sympathetic than his campaign rhetoric. Note that the former mayor is doing his best to portray his shift as a reaction to the changing environment with regards to terrorism and border security...a plausible move though one being met with skepticism by his detractors.

The other GOP candidates have targeted Giuliani's shifting position on immigration in hopes of convincing voters that the former mayor is nothing more than a political opportunist who needs to shed a significant amount of baggage that won't play well with conservative Republicans.

From The New York Times:

Meanwhile, Mr. Romney has been stepping up his criticism of his opponent. Last week he called New York a “sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants and said that Mr. Giuliani was too soft on immigration when he was mayor. Mr. Giuliani has rejected those assertions, and is trying to toughen his image on the issue. He has made ending illegal immigration one of his “12 Commitments to the American People."

And, there’s every indication that the former mayor will continue to face questions about his positions, past and present, and not only from Mr. Romney. Just yesterday, former Senator Fred Thompson, who is expected to jump into the presidential race soon, posted an entry on his blog calling New York a “sanctuary city."

Then there is Giuliani's lengthy piece at www.foreingaffairs.org in which he frames the war on terror as the emergence of the 9/11 generation...comparing it to the cold war as he attempts to link his noteworthy performance following the attack on New York City with the need for a protracted effort to extinguish a growing ideology of Islamic extremism.

We are all members of the 9/11 generation.

The defining challenges of the twentieth century ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Full recognition of the first great challenge of the twenty-first century came with the attacks of September 11, 2001, even though Islamist terrorists had begun their assault on world order decades before. Confronted with an act of war on American soil, our old assumptions about conflict between nation-states fell away. Civilization itself, and the international system, had come under attack by a ruthless and radical Islamist enemy.

But this war will be long, and we are still in its early stages. Much like at the beginning of the Cold War, we are at the dawn of a new era in global affairs, when old ideas have to be rethought and new ideas have to be devised to meet new challenges.

After the attacks of 9/11, President Bush put America on the offensive against terrorists, orchestrating the most fundamental change in U.S. strategy since President Harry Truman reoriented American foreign and defense policy at the outset of the Cold War. [...]

The 9/11 generation has learned from the history of the twentieth century that America must not turn a blind eye to gathering storms. [...]

In recent years, the GOP has sought to paint the Democrats as soft on defense and sympathetic to our adversaries...if not outright unpatriotic. At the same time, they accuse the Democrats of lacking optimism in the ability of America to achieve what she sets as her goals...meaning Democrats are down on America, if you will. In broad terms, Democrats typically start with self-reflection...an inward review that is then followed by looking to outward factors or causal influences...a process that allows Republicans to highlight the alleged negativity of Democrats.

Recall how the Republican's linked John Kerry to France, made an issue of his testimony following his return from Vietnam, and ridiculed his plan for fighting terrorism as an insufficient law enforcement approach...making him out to be an apologist for our enemies and all things anti-American.

On the other hand, the GOP is careful to avoid any self-criticism of this country...and they've been successful in framing their arguments in this manner...meaning America can do no wrong, if you will. They still incorporate negativity into their strategy...but it is directed outward towards other nations or groups they define to be enemies of our established American ideals.

In effect, the difference between the GOP and the Democrats is that the GOP is averse to confronting America's problems with a requirement for national self-reflection...meaning a process of looking inward. They make a concerted effort to identify outward influences (other nations, etc) as the source of our problems. Looking at what America may have done wrong isn't generally part of their equation.

Its the very mechanism that allows many GOP voters to support tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in the midst of huge war debts while also objecting to federal measures to fund health care or needed improvements to infrastructure. That brings us back to the alphabet.

As I thought about this shift from the three "G's" to the three "I's", I couldn't help but wonder if there was any particular reason for the Republican's to have skipped the "H's". Perhaps the fact that the Democrats had already adopted health care and scrutinized the amount of authority given to those responsible for homeland security may have led them to concede the questioning and self-examining consonant in favor of the more forceful and self-serving vowel?

Tagged as: 2008 Presidential Election, Fred Thompson, GOP, Iran, Iraq, LGBT, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, War on Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 14, 2007 | 4:56 PM
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