This election, like any election, is a contest of persuading targeted blocks of voters to support your candidacy. It’s a deceptively complex game of identifying groups of people with characteristics that are in harmony with the theme of your campaign and getting them to the polls.
Democrats typically solicit union members, middle-income families, senior citizens, and minorities, and attempt to cobble together a coalition. Republicans have been known to make appeals to business people, the white working class, and evangelicals. But this year there is something happening that is curious and perverse. This new development is observable in a couple of recent comments by GOP leaders and media.
Newt Gingrich, in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was asked about his his multiple affairs and marriages. He responded with a rather unique justification for why behaving like a rutting pig would make him a better candidate:
“It may make me more normal than somebody who wanders around seeming perfect and maybe not understanding the human condition and challenges of life for normal people.”
Apparently Gingrich thinks that cheating on your wife, and/or wives, is “normal” and humanizing. He actually believes that his moral indecencies make him a superior candidate. And conversely, that marital fidelity exposes one’s arrogance as attempting to pass off a facade of phony perfection. By Gingrich’s ethical standards Romney would be wise to shag a BYU cheerleader if he really wants to connect with America and win the presidency.
Another peculiar comment came from Sen. Jim DeMint (Tea Party, SC). He spoke with Neil Cavuto on Fox News in response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech and the issue of tax fairness and whether the wealthy are paying their fair share:
“Well, Neil, we’ve got a challenge in America because about half the country is getting something from government, and that message is going to appeal to them. Republicans have got to appeal to the half of Americans who are paying income taxes, who are working and know better. And it’s not a matter of kind of watering down our message to appeal to those who want more from government, we’ve got to unite that part of America that understands what makes us great. It’s not going to be easy, because it sounds good to say: Let’s tax the rich.”
DeMint is suggesting that the GOP disregard the portion of the electorate that he says are not paying taxes. First of all, he is regurgitating a false argument that people who do not pay federal income taxes are not paying any taxes at all. They do, of course, pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, and state and local taxes, in amounts that raise their effective tax rates to levels comparable to the national averages. But more importantly, the “half of Americans” that DeMint is writing off are, by and large, senior citizens, students, and the working poor, because that is who generally qualify for exemptions from federal income taxes. Perhaps he’d like to tax them more to make up for the tax cuts he has given to his rich pals.
Finally, Fox News chimed in with a segment on their business network. Regular contributor Liz Trotta was called upon to offer her impressions of the State of the Union speech. What struck her was the news released after the speech about the rescue of an American held hostage by Somali pirates:
“How many times is he going to use Seal Team 6 to get out of trouble?” […] “They are becoming political operatives. I don’t trust this guy at all.”
Seriously? Trotta is appalled that the President is sending elite commando squads to save the lives of American citizens. She is implying that it would have been better if the hostages had been left to rot in the pirates’ lair. And if her indifference to the suffering of the victims weren’t bad enough, she goes on to insult the heroes who risked their lives, freed the captives, and dispensed with the terrorists.
So yesterday was a day that saw the Republican Party cast aside vast amounts of voters who are average citizens and retirees. They rejected voters who dare to be faithful to their spouses. And they insulted heroic soldiers and the patriots who support them. Consequently, it appears that the GOP has staked out a claim for the upper-class, philandering, terrorist sympathizer vote. That’s a unique campaign strategy, to say the least. And if that’s the case, I say let them have it, and good luck in November.