Monday, October 13, 2008

GOP: The Party of Fear

-- by Dave

The other day Digby picked up on Michael Froomkin report about a flyer being distributed in Florida that says:

Republicans have proven they will never retreat under pressure from terrorists or the nations who harbor them.

While Democrats have called for surrender in the fight against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, they have also pledged to meet unconditionally with dictators and tyrants.

Keep America Safe. Vote Republican.

And Eli observes at Multi Medium that the McCain campaign is in fact training its volunteers to think of, and to portray, Obama as a terrorist, "a ground operation actually training its volunteers to elicit violent responses in voters."

Then there was Sarah Palin in her debate with Joe Biden:

You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America's economy, is go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about the economy?"

And I'll bet you, you're going to hear some fear in that parent's voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in the stock market. Did we just take a major hit with those investments?

Fear about, how are we going to afford to send our kids to college? A fear, as small-business owners, perhaps, how we're going to borrow any money to increase inventory or hire more people.

Fear, fear everywhere. That's what Republicans are selling.

And in reality, this is now the standard Republican campaign: Create fear among voters, and then play on those fears. It has been so for as long as I've been in politics.

I've been rereading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, which explores in colorful detail how masterful The Trickster was in conducting precisely just such a divisive, culture-war campaign. In his day, it was all about appealing to white voters fearful about Negro rioters and depraved hippies and conspiring commies. The precise objects of fear have altered slightly -- now it's simply black "criminals" and dirty-hippie liberals and bloodthirsty terrorists -- but the basic outline is the same.

Of course, as you can see from the billboard above -- which appeared at a Pittsburgh suburb in 1949 -- this sort of appeal even preceded Nixon.

But this year, their fearmongering is reaching new depths. As Adam Serwer at TAP recently explored, the talk about Obama as a terrorist has its roots in this ancient sewer, and more important, it has dangerous consequences. Serwer was describing the weekend dustup over the remarks by Rep. John Lewis, the civil-rights pioneer, comparing McCain to George Wallace. As Serwer observes:

Lewis was expressing concern that the McCain campaign’s rhetoric could lead some of their supporters to conclude that violence is the only rational response to an Obama victory.

And as an Obama victory begins to appear even more inevitable, watch for the Little Timmys to start coming out of the woodwork.

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