Tuesday, November 07, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] Politics fair and foul

Did any of you read this article in the NYTimes?

New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path

An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Our November surprise turned out to be how little the Republican party knows or cares about legal or ethical campaign practices. Well, surely someone must be surprised. Plenty of fouls against FCC and other regulations but not enough MSM coverage and a downright peculiar failure on the part of many major media news organizations to point out that Dems are NOT doing dirty tricks. But this technique of probing for a voter's biases and pinning a vote suggestion to either religious intolerance or homophobia does not strike me as an intrinsically unfair campaign tool. Disgusting, pandering, encouraging the very worst in the psyche of the american electorate? Yes. Unfair? Not really. Giving voters the things they need is rare but promising them what they want is politics as usual.

Today the news will be of balky voting machines, mysteriously erased or misplaced voter registration rolls, hostile voter credential challenges in contested districts and just generally a huge sideshow of broken election infrastructure mostly to the advantage of Republicans that distracts from the real story that unfolds today: Can America regain is conscience today? The whole world dreads our elections now.

It is harmful to the prospects of any nation for its leaders to pander to the narrow mindedness, selfishness and fear of voters. These negative traits are simply human and universal pitfalls, not specifically American or Republican. They are a shortsighted toe hold for political ambitions, a dead end. It is the downward path by which fascists lead their nation's to disgrace and destruction. But it is politics as usual. Our vote this year, perhaps a little more so than in other years, is a referendum on whether America is just another "politics as usual" country and therefore destined for the same fates as other "empire as usual" nations that have gone before us.

Beside that long term rot of the moral reasoning among the voters, is there a short term harm in this vile appeal? Can blatant appeals to fear and bigotry rescue the Republicans? I wonder. The harm seems small because the bigots on whom such a phone call would work are the anxious little minds that already know who serves their special interests and insecurities. That phone call is not going to change the minds of anyone whose mind isn't already in a private fog of ignorant homophobia or having Fox News-induced nightmares about islamofascists hiding among the mosques in America. The hope [it certainly isn't facts I can cite from polling] that I am voicing is that the mysterious body of voters we label "undecided" are in fact mostly decent people who feel numbed or badgered or disgusted by the coarse, crass tone and divisive trickery that has become common procedure for getting elected. Or at least, its what got many of our current crop of defective congressmen elected. We may call these potential voters undecided only because of what a few of them told a pollster, but any sample of people who "don't know" who they are voting for seems like a useless basis to infer either indecision, indifference or reticence in service of their privacy. So it is just a hope then that among the mystery crowd there are those who need a nudge to feel that one candidate represents the best hope for all the people and for the long term and need a nudge to care enough to go to the polls. And there is a hope that such undecideds out number the bigots who balance between disgust and fear and could be tipped by an egregious phone trick. That is why I keep making the phone calls.

UPDATE: I just finished an hour of MoveOn calls-for-change into Connecticut congressional districts and maybe I was just having a good day but of the live people I talked to, one hung up and all the rest said they had or would vote for the Democratic candidate. Joe the republicrat will be all by himself among his state's delegation if that was a valid sample.


Note:As you can see from the links, I owe particular thanks to the gratifying speed and authority of Josh Marshall's resources and his contributors at TPM where a handy scoreboard will go live when the first polls close.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/07/2006 08:36:00 AM

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