WIll Conservatives Turn Out? Ask Karl Rove genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Puppets on a string

Thought Theater has written extensively about Karl Rove and his efforts to craft and manage the mechanism to establish GOP political dominance. I've called his approach counterintuitive because it is frequently difficult to identify a Rove strategy until it is well on the way to achieving its intended objective. That fact points to the degree of discipline he demonstrates as well as the amount of cooperation he is able to command. Lastly, his efforts require precise execution and an uncanny sense of timing.

I'm particularly drawn to his masterful ability to motivate the conservative evangelical base and a new CBS News article offers an opportunity to describe and deconstruct his tactical acumen. It follows on the heels of an article earlier this week detailing remarks made by James Dobson of Focus on the Family in Pennsylvania and an article in the Kansas City Star.

From The Kansas City Star:

PITTSBURGH - To the daunting challenges facing Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections, add another: angry "values voters" who feel used and abandoned.

"We put these people in power in 2004," said Sue Means, a home-school activist from suburban Pittsburgh. "I really expected more. I'm disappointed."

The failed federal marriage amendment, waffling on stem cell research, no new limits on abortion - Means sees little but broken promises from the Republican Congress. And she's far from alone among like-minded people whom many credited in 2004 with helping pass same-sex marriage bans in 11 states and being key to President Bush's re-election.

Remarks of this nature that appear in print and make the nightly news get Democratic strategists salivating. Unfortunately, instead of meaning that a victory feast is just around the corner, these reports are actually an integral part of the Rove agenda. Stay with me...I know on its surface this doesn't make any sense. First let me provide another excerpt from the article.

From The Kansas City Star:

"There are a lot of people that are somewhat disillusioned and have a feeling of betrayal for having worked so hard and have Republicans be so unresponsive," Dr. James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, said after speaking at a rally here this week. "How that will play out, I really don't know."

Such discouragement is just one of several obstacles facing Republicans in mobilizing Christian conservatives this year.

Midterm elections excite fewer people anyway. A signature issue, such as a ban on same-sex marriage, is on the ballot in fewer states this year. And the federal government has promised to crack down on church-based partisan politicking after complaints about such behavior in 2004, which could suppress religious leaders' involvement and dampen turnout.

Dobson and others are working hard to counter that possibility, even as they acknowledge their disappointment.

Most strategists would cringe if their Party was the focus of this type of reporting. However, I'm convinced that it is actually orchestrated by Karl Rove and key allies like James Dobson and other influential conservative evangelical leaders. What many fail to recognize is the mindset of those most receptive and most responsive to this type of news report. Democrats and liberals get a false sense of confidence from these stories and it leads to some measure of complacency. On the other hand, when evangelicals and conservatives read such articles, they are actually motivated because if the reported disenchantment were to actually hamper voter turnout, the absolute ideology that they seek to instill into the government and therefore future legislation could be jeopardized.

In fact, I would describe the reaction to articles of this nature as a call to faith...a construct that permeates the vast majority of the evangelical psyche. Not unlike with a fellow believer that has strayed and sinned, the fellow soldiers are compelled to rally around the fallen in order to renew and reinvigorate their spiritual compass. Essentially, through the strength of the group, those who may have lost resolve must be reminded of what is at stake...which is exactly what these articles are orchestrated to achieve. Keep in mind that you would be hard pressed to cite such an article that didn't have a key evangelical or conservative figure cited. That is not an accident...it is, in my opinion, the orchestration of Karl Rove in concert with his fully committed disciples.

From CBS News:

"We're disgusted somewhat with some of the Republicans, but we'd be in a whole lot worse shape with the Democrats," said the Rev. Don Wildmon of Tupelo, Mississippi, chairman of the conservative American Family Association. "So, if you can't get the whole loaf, take a half a loaf."

Together, fiscal and social conservatives make up a significant segment of the Republican faithful, and the Republican Party always needs them to vote in droves. That's especially important this year for November elections because turnout typically is low in a non-presidential election years and polls show the public favoring Democrats to control Congress.

"If they don't come to the polls, we're in trouble," said Bishop Harry Jackson of College Park, Maryland, an evangelical Christian who leads the High-Impact Leadership Coalition, which promotes "moral issues" in urban communities.

With seven weeks left in the campaign, there's some concern among Republicans that conservatives — evangelicals included — might not vote in Nov. 7 elections because of their unhappiness with Congress and President George W. Bush.

I'm always baffled when Democrats jump to the conclusion that the GOP coalition is finally crumbling. That assumption is akin to the Bush administrations misjudgment that through the imposition of force in Iraq and Afghanistan we will extinguish the extremist beliefs of those who oppose our efforts in the region and Western Civilization in general. Fanatical ideology is actually fueled when it perceives that its agenda is threatened.

Therefore, in what I describe as Karl Rove's counterintuitive approach, fear and the threat of defeat serve as the best means to achieve his goal...a huge turnout by the evangelical conservative base. The more discussion about the demise of the assembled majority, the more the group congeals to preserve the power which they see as critical to the ability to advance their ideology. Frankly, the simplicity is both amazing and frightening...especially when one realizes how closely the actions and evolution of one fanatic ideology mirrors all others.

From The Pittsburg Post-Gazette:

Standing before an enormous American flag in Mellon Arena, conservative evangelical activist James Dobson told thousands of supporters he was deeply disappointed in the nation's Republican leadership, but that the nation's future depended on re-electing them.

"I have flat-out been ticked at Republicans for the past two years," he said, to some applause from a crowd that arena security estimated at around 3,000.

However, he said, "This country is at a crisis point. Whether or not the Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening."

He accused the Republican House and Senate of "sitting on their hands" on key conservative social issues. He said they had squandered a growing public sentiment that abortion should be limited or banned.

But, he asked his audience to consider what would happen if Republicans lost control of key committees on education, the judiciary, and especially, the armed forces.

"We are at war in this country with an enemy who wants to destroy us," he said. He stressed that only a small minority of Muslims believe that their faith justifies violence, "but let's say 4 percent of Muslims want to kill us ... . That's 48 million people who want to bring us to our knees."

He compared those who want to negotiate their way out of crises in the Middle East to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who sought to appease Adolph Hitler prior to World War II.

But in a news conference, he said his call for "strength" against America's enemies was comparable to President Reagan's strategy against the former Soviet Union.

Note the fact that Dobson uses the very same rhetoric as the President and other Republican operatives in describing America's battle with terrorism. Many have argued that the characterizations by the President and the GOP of the conflict as a clash of civilizations...as a battle of good versus evil...with references to the enemy as Islamo-Fascists, will simply force otherwise reasonable Muslims to join with the terrorists. Those making such accusations may be correct in their analysis, nonetheless they may also be overlooking the fact that the President and the GOP are actually speaking to their constituents more so than to the enemy.

I would argue that this is not accidental, but more likely the carefully crafted campaign strategy of Karl Rove. Sad as it may be, Rove realizes that those best able to understand the rhetoric he employs to describe the enemy are those who have the same extremist ideological predisposition. No one recognizes fanaticism better than a fanatic...and nothing motivates a fanatic more than being threatened by an alternate fanaticism.

One additional point warrants discussion. The goals of people of power in the GOP and the goals of men like James Dobson have parallel objectives. Each time the GOP enlists evangelical conservative leaders to assist them in their efforts to retain power, to expand fundraising, and to turn out voters, they also enhance the ability of these individuals to expand their base of power, to collect more money, and to gain more followers. The relationship is symbiotic and therefore self-perpetuation and self-sustaining. Loyalty is a given because the goals are identical. Unfortunately, because of the heinous nature of extremist ideology, their actions to manipulate their followers in order to further their own objectives are a fully parasitic construct.

I'll close with an excerpt from a prior posting that summarizes my theory on the Rove approach.

The fact that many observers view this presidency to be a string of contradictions further supports my conjecture. One needs look no further than some of the programs that this administration has promoted. The Medicare prescription drug program is seen to be one of the largest expansions of entitlements in decades…but it courts the elderly voter. The tax reductions and the waiver of the capital gains tax, while argued to have stimulated the economy, have been extended while budget deficits and spending continue to swell…but they court other constituencies. There are other examples including controversial issues like Social Security and immigration reform. Collectively, the efforts and objectives of this administration don't make ideological sense...except when looking at assembling a majority voting block.

I believe Rove’s approach is anything but conventional. Many strategists gauge what a candidate needs to give each constituency in order to maintain their support. I’m convinced that Karl Rove calculates the tolerance thresholds of each constituency to determine the amount of disappointment each group can withstand and still remain a part of the patchwork coalition. To provide an analogy, I would equate it with the principle of ascertaining the least common denominator. It is a bare minimum equation. At the same time, he evaluates the amount of vitriol that may need to be directed at the opposition in order to augment the disappointment delivered across the board. This is done to keep the coalition voters engaged and motivated so they will turn out to protect the establishment's chosen vision for America.

Recently, President Bush indicated that the best moment of his presidency was catching a large fish from his manmade lake. It was subsequently pointed out that the weight of that fish would have significantly exceeded the prior record catch for that particular fish. As with many of the statements made by this President and his administration, an attempt was subsequently made to modify the information. Nonetheless, as with catching fish, Karl Rove and this President have routinely been able to extract enough voters from the muddied waters of a well crafted constituency to win the ultimate prize…the retention of power.

If Democrats are to win, they will first need to figure out what lurks below the surface. If they can do that, they will finally have a chance to catch the big one.

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2006 | 9:08 AM
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