Some Thoughts About the Possible GOP Blindside in the GE (Part 1)
[Note: I've decided to break this into 2 parts to make things much easier for me to deal with. Enjoy, or not]
Watching the SCLM and FRWC start their opening salvos on Barack Obama this week - as well as the responses from his many supporters - made me remember a few things about some of the previous Presidential elections - and how there seemed to be a backdoor slider that made the Democrats (sans W. Clinton) freeze at Strike Three.
1988 - Bush vs. Dukakis.
When discussing this election, the one thing that most people talk about is Lee Atwater's "Willie Horton" ad, which was racist (and for the most part, untrue, but when has the truth stopped the GOP before?) no matter which way you look at it. There were several variations of the ad, including the "revolving door of criminals" to make Dukakis look soft on crime. While this ad received alot of attention, that wasn't the backdoor slider that doomed Dukakis.
That dubious distinction belonged to the "Michael Dukakis on a Tank" ad that Bush ran. If you ever get a chance to see this ad, it is the quintessential GOP spin ad - and it succeeded in making Governor Dukakis look like a total buffoon and helped to pin him as hopelessly lost on defense issues in the process.
The Tank ad was the one that Dukakis had no real answer for and was not really challenged in narrative in the MSM (because the Horton ad was the one getting the "Shock!RACISM" tag around the news). This was the one that Democrats in 1988 never saw coming.
2000 - Bush II vs. Gore
Karl Rove shows how much he learned from Lee Atwater (who died from a burst blood vessel in the brain, I think) in this campaign. The meme that Gore had to deal with was the whole "I invented the Internet" crap that the GOP kept pounding away with - even though Gore never said that. This turned into a meta-narrative of "Al Gore - serial liar, and a Geek wants so badly to be the Cool Jock...like George W. Bush is." And when this was firmly in place, then came the "Alpha Male" stories, the "Earth Tones," the "Unfunny, Boring, Wonky, Girly Man" hit pieces - but none of these were the backdoor slider.
That belongs to "George Bush: The President You Could Sit Next To at a Bar and Have Beer With" - even though this was so far from true (GOP and Truth divorced again).
Understand this - Regardless of the events of Florida on election night, the mere fact that George W. Bush was able to get as many popular and electoral votes as he did - as well as Gore being unable to carry his home state - speaks volumes within itself. Republicans do not care if they win by a million votes or simply by one. A win is a win - and a mandate to do what they want.
2004 - Bush II vs. Kerry
Every bad campaign deserves a repeat performance. This time around, there was no single backdoor slider. The Kerry campaign faced nothing but backdoor sliders. For that matter, Democrats either got the backdoor slider or beaned in the head with a fastball.
Dean, for example, was hit with a fastball - the infamous "Dean scream" which was neither a scream nor Howard Dean. (Truth is the first casualty, and with the GOP, forever an open wound). Dean's campaign faltered with the endless "Dean scream" business - and John Kerry moved to the forefront.
But then the Bush team fired backdoor slider #1 - A well-timed raising of the Threat Level with a Color-Coded Terror Alert...just before the Democratic National Convention. This blunts any "positive" momentum Kerry would have had going into the GE.
Backdoor slider #2 - Kerry as a military opportunist and coward. Step one: Criticize his appearances before Congress as a Military Vet when he spoke against the Vietnam war. While he is on the defensive, begin "questioning" his medals. Then insinuate that his wounds were 'self-inflicted' to gain medals he should not have earned. Photoshop a picture of Kerry with "Hanoi Jane" and circulate.
How does this backdoor slider work for Bush? It works to destroy Kerry's credibility on military issues. When he apologized for his vote on AUMF, Bush and Cheney seized on that, and his apparent change-of-heart on Iraq war funding supplements (that $87 billion package) - and characterized it simply as "Being for the war before he was against it."
Backdoor slider #2 was the one Kerry never saw coming. But, even when the attacks first started, Kerry never immediately responded.
Backdoor Slider #3 - Democrats as Rich, European-loving Girly Men...again. Edwards the "Breck Girl" and rich trial lawyer (and trial lawyers care nothing for regular folks except to take their hard-earned money through frivolous lawsuits being the unspoken insinuation) that spends hundreds of dollars on haircuts; Kerry the rich, out-of-touch military traitor that married Theresa Heinz for her money. Add a very stupid picture of John Kerry is a full body suit on his hands and knees, looking very much like a young infant - as well as one of Kerry bumbling with a football, and the message is complete.
And, like Florida in 2000, the horserace put Ohio (which was under GOP control) in play. And "Oops...it happened again."
Variations of the backdoor sliders (also known as trapdoors) have been used throughout this primary season. The next post (assuming my ADD-riddled brain can focus that much) will look at some of the GOP's classic tactics used thus far in this campaign.