One of my all-time favorite movie quotes goes as follows:
“A person is smart, yes. But people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” – Tommy Lee Jones, “Men In Black”
Mr. Jones was right, and so was Barack Obama in his recent speech in San Francisco which referred to “bitterness: in small-town America.
Republican campaign organizers know it too, which explains why they consistently harp on emotionally-charged “scare” issues every four years. They know much of their electorate is easily jolted by straw bogeymen (“God, gays, guns, and John McCain’s secret black child”) aimed at sensibilities they, yes, cling to most.
Want some real-world examples? No problem.
In 2000, the NRA circulated pamphlets in Tennessee claiming a chief priority of a President Al Gore would be to confiscate legal firearms, while another local Republican flyer claimed Gore would outlaw Bibles. Both bad lies, sure, but clearly some area voters were dense enough to buy it, as were others four years later when Dick Cheney insinuated that those casting a ballot for John Kerry were gambling with their families’ lives on terror security.
How about two more 2004 election year classic “scare” issues: same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research.
With the former, what is the literal difference between two men or two women co-habitating as a legally wed couple, or not? None. By its legal definition, marriage is a socio-economic contract which is why lawyers manage divorces, and not church officials. Secondly, to religious conservatives so horrified by human embryos being used to harvest stem cells, I encourage you to protest outside a local in-vitro fertility clinic, as such places discard (meaning throw in the trash, or toilet) unwanted embryos on a regular basis.
Thus, no matter if these embryos are used to recover stems, or tossed out as surplus, the outcome is the same. If you’re going to be (self) righteous, at least be consistent about it.
As for “small-town” economic issues, who could blame residents of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Indiana for ”bitterness”? Their local economies (most all manufacturing-based) have struggled for over 35 years with no uptick in sight. How could they not be emotionally fried, especially when decades of government promises for relief have largely gone by the boards?
With the exception of economic hardships—which impacts everyone—these aforementioned “fear” voters are precisely those the RNC bank on, ones easily herded to their side of the ballot, prodded along by electric buzzwords (e.g. “elitist,” “America hater,” “socialist”) which GOP lackeys at Fox “News” and their right-wing talk radio counterparts are too happy to howl ad hominem on air.
All of the above are points Barack Obama was driving at in his “bitter” San Francisco speech.
Could he have phrased the message better?
Yes, most people dislike being reminded of their shortcomings, which does not imply that religion or gun-ownership is a weakness, but rather how some use them to express anger with government.
But on the whole, Obama’s basic message could not have been more accurate.
This said, do I personally feel that Republican voters—on the whole—are brain-dead, or least any more than Democratic ones? No. But on the other hand, what does it say when voters fall for the same crap every four years? Of course, election year fear-mongering is not new in American politics (LBJ’s 1964 “Daisy” TV spot is a prime example), but when it strikes, few voters seem able to recognize it as the cellophane ghost rising out of the attic trunk it truly is.
Thus, this fearful drum will continue beating.
Yet to voters—whomever they are—so deeply offended by Obama’s “bitter” remarks, riddle me this: the Republican Party—not to mention Hillary Clinton—are treating you like easily scared, impulsive rabbits.
Why do you keep living up to their expectations?