Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confused About Republican Strategy

Why are the Republicans putting the mosque near (not at, just near) the former site of the World Trade Center (ground zero will always mean to me the courtyard in the middle of the Pentagon) at the heart of their campaigns?  Sure, demagoguery is good fun, but given how bad the economy still is, how high unemployment still is, how hard it is to borrow money, and so on, why not run on the economy?  Incumbents lose when the economy is bad, especially of the party in power (Dem incumbents are at far greater risk than GOP incumbents). 

I am just puzzled why the Republicans would want to divert attention from the economy.  Even if they have no solutions (other than tax cuts for the rich), it would seem to me that focusing on bailouts, deficits and the like would be just fine.  Where is the message management police when you need them?

Any readers want to explain why religion-baiting makes more sense?  Is this about turnout?  Un-confuse me if you will.


Dan Nexon said...

1) Keep base whipped up to fever pitch; and
2) Sign of general nativism and xenophobia brought out by horrible economy, i.e., the dog is wagging the tail, not the other way around.

The real danger, of course, is that a lot of these people are going to win and interpret their victory to extremist positions rather than great recession.

Steve Saideman said...

I just got quick input from one of my favorite American politics scholars/former colleagues (Cherie Maestas) who gave me some polling figures that show GOP to be just as blamed, if not more so, by crappy economy.
Dan, yes, xenophobia driven by bad economy--and by ethnic outbidding where the competition really is among and between Republicans rather than between GOP and Dems (http://saideman.blogspot.com/2010/08/mosque-madness.html).

And yes, learning the wrong lesson here would be most painful. I am hoping your pessimism about the election is wrong. But I am starting to lean that way, too as long as the economy continues to non-rebound.

Steve Greene said...

Without seeing Cherie's polling data, I still submit that there's no way GOP is blamed as much for the economy (in an electoral sense) as Dems. That said, I think Dan is right. Xenophobia was actually a hugely successful electoral strategy for the Know-Nothings in the 1850's.

Dan Nexon said...

People may blame the GOP just as much, but they'll still take it out on the party in power.

BTW, this is, IMHO, why the Dems can't pretend that this isn't a national election.

Chris C. said...

Some decently prominent conservative recently said this exact same thing, pointing out that the economy was what people cared the most about with only a small, vocal minority still interested in "terror." Chris Christie had some good remarks on this too.

What annoys me here is that this is being cast as a "national security" issue and part of the "Clash of Civilizations." So saying anything positive about Islam/mosques/etc. means your national security/foreign policy credentials are questionable since you don't understand the "threat" we're facing.

Note too that this wasn't a mainstream Republican-backed initiative- it was fueled mostly by Newt's own presidential ambitions and a few others who've seen this as an opportunity for them to run to the right. It plays well on talk radio and to the base though, so everyone else kind of had to pile on or risk being tarred as a terrorist-lover/not patriotic.

Mrs. Spew said...

Because the business folk who pay people like Dick Armey don't want Republicans focusing on the economy and therefore on the anger towards Wall Street, banks, large corporations that might lead to more regulation and problems. So their lobbyists get out the word, Rupert Murdoch orders his minions to beat the racist drum, other attention seeker pundits after money and exposure like Gingrich take it even further, and the Republican politicians have to go along and agree with the pundits or they lose their media time, and other media have to chase the story too, which is much more sensationalistic and simpler than the economy.

For two decades, they've been putting I hate government and government should never touch business loons in as Republican officials at the state and local levels. The tea party was an afterthought stolen from Ron Paul. So now they don't just have a rabid base, they have a party infrastructure that says that business must be free and diverts attention away from business. It's worked well for three decades.