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Poisoned Primaries: A New Conservative Strategy

19-Mar-08 09:01 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

You won’t read about it anywhere so far as I can tell – not yet.  But there’s something rather insidious about the U.S. Presidential campaign lately.  Has anyone else noticed how much the neocons and the conservative, right-wing elements (specifically, Republicans) have been behaving since McCain became the undisputed candidate for the Republican party?  On conservative media all over the Internet; all over Fox news and even somewhat on CNN we’re seeing conservative commentators go after Democratic front-runner Barack Obama and in some cases even openly supporting the candidacy of fellow hopeful Hillary Clinton.  And that support has now reached a feverish pitch with this latest scandal over the intrepid but controversial musings of Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  All of this rancorous critique from the GOP of Obama seems to have a singular objective: to aid the Clinton campaign because she’s seen as the weaker of the two candidates and thus much more likely to increase the odds of an otherwise impossible victory for McCain.

This strategy carries with it the stench of other popular tricks used by those who disrespect the democratic process; stacking nomination meetings, selling party memberships at the door, political patronage, etc.  But it’s a hard thing to prove because nowhere will anyone find a document instructing conservatives to rush out to vote for Clinton in Democratic primaries.  (Although there’s no need to in some states, since you can request a Democratic ballot at a Republican primary and cast a vote for Clinton that way.)  You won’t find Republicans conspiring in a back alley to dawn blue ties and sandals, disguising themselves as to infiltrate Democratic rallies and shout Clinton’s name louder than Obama’s.  It’s not that kind of conspiracy.  It’s the kind that happens organically when a critical mass of media and GOP-sympathizers of one sort or another have their own candidate selection process concluded first while a tight race that should (and generally does) work in favour of the Democrats yields a front-runner and presents an obvious opportunity.  For what point is there in going to a Republican primary and casting a ballot for the only name on it, when the far more "constructive" course is to vote for the runner-up in the opposing party’s campaign or to encourage others to do so?

If you’re a Republican, the ideal course is to maximize this effort by actually attacking the Democratic front-runner not by strengthening the candidacy of his seemingly weaker opponent (because you’ll have to face off with her eventually), but to dredge his past for any kind of political dirt that can be found.  Attacking his innocent associations, for example – the people around him, whose views he can’t reasonably be held to account for but – even better – whom we can claim influence his views thus casting aspersions both on the voracity of his statements if they’re opposite (as they are) in addition to cultivating the same bad judgement, or hatred, or racism – or all of the above – in his mind.  After all, we can’t hear what Obama’s thinking, can we?

It’s fear-mongering at its worst.  Fear of what Obama’s not saying because we’re not sure what ideas his pastor has put in his head.  It’s sleazy, because it’s not a contest of ideas – it’s mindless mud-slinging; an attempt to tarnish image only.  It’s unfair, because there’s not even the option for the Democrats to pull the same kind of stunt on the Republicans.

It’s the new conservative strategy.

Fortunately, I believe that the convention is still far enough away that there’s sufficient time for Obama to stage a recovery from this and an equally sleazy move by that twit in the PMO who leaked confidential discourse with a member of the Obama campaign a few weeks ago – the so-called "NAFTA-gate" affair.  But I still worry about this becoming the new normal for conservative party strategists who are seemingly less and less interested in a real debate on the issues and who worry about winning the election, no matter the cost – with no regard or interest in a contest of ideas.  And I worry that such notions will eventually migrate north to find purchase in Canadian politics, as they often do.

And here’s yet another case where I hope I’m wrong.

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Categories: News and politics
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Terry Glavin

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