How the Left Dupes Conservative Voters
Too little serious conservative analysis of the 2012 presidential campaign has yet appeared. This is understandable. The results of the election were disheartening to the point of shock. The campaign defied all historical precedent, all commonsense interpretation. The Romney ticket should not have lost and did not deserve to lose. The Democrats, fielding the least worthy ticket in the past century -- and that's saying something -- did not deserve to win.
The reasons they did are myriad and complex. But before we get too far down the road, there is one lesson that has to be grasped: the left has our number. As far as electoral politics in the United States is concerned, the progressive political machine has figured out how to manipulate conservatives in order to get the political results that they desire. They have done this repeatedly, and with mounting success. They will continue to do so as long as they are allowed to get away with it.
The left is not manipulating conservatism as a whole, but they don't need conservatism as a whole. They need only a small percentage of conservative voters. In many cases a few percentage points are all that is required to swing a close election. By trial and error over the past decade, the American left has developed a method of obtaining control over those few percentage points in a limited but crucial number of contests.
This method is aimed at the most unworldly and least experienced members of the conservative coalition: religious believers, single-issue voters such as gun owners, and newly-recruited voters who became involved in the tea party movement over the past four years. The program operates counterintuitively, by manipulating the beliefs and convictions of the voters to misdirect or negate their political activities. Rather than persuade voters to act against their own interests or to vote against their convictions, the left, with the aid of the media, manipulates those very convictions -- public morality with religious voters, conservative ideology with traditionalists or tea party voters, and various stances on single issues, to persuade voters to waste their votes on obscure or bogus candidates, to throw support to hopeless or seriously flawed "pure" candidates, and in some cases not to vote at all.
This tactic surfaced in the 2000 election, almost by sheer accident. On November 2, WPXT reporter Erin Fehlbau seemingly stumbled over a story of national significance while covering an unrelated trial. According to a local cop, somebody had unearthed evidence that George W. Bush had been involved in a 1976 drunk-driving case.
"Somebody" turned out to be Tom Connolly, a Democratic political operative who had acted as a delegate to the national convention and had previously run for state governor. Connolly, lo and behold, was right around the corner, and was able to give Fehlbau the complete lowdown, including dates and docket number. Fehlbau happily ran off with her story, morally certain that she had been in no way manipulated -- a claim she makes to this day.
In truth, she had been manipulated as thoroughly and completely as the average Philip K. Dick character. At least two other reporters, Susan Kimball of the Portland NBC affiliate WCSH-TV and David Hench, police reporter for the Portland Press Herald, were tipped at the same time. Somebody really wanted the story to roll.
And roll it did. Fehlbau was featured on that evening's Nightline, and the story ran on front pages (remember those?) across the country the next day. The consensus was that Bush had lied (he'd done no such thing, he merely hadn't mentioned a piece of ancient history), that he probably still drank, and there might well be truth in rumors about hard drug use.
Connolly leapt into the picture, patting himself on the back for his heroism and cleverness, claiming to have changed history, and even providing a rationale -- according to him, the number of drunk drivers was already dangerously high without putting one in the White House. Unmentioned then or later was who else was involved. (Political insiders believe that it was Gore campaign panjandrum Chris LeHane, who was from Maine and had plenty of connections in the area, including Connolly himself.)
The story had a clear effect on the campaign. Bush, who had been steadily gaining momentum and led in several polls, began to stall out. The weekend left him little time to refute the story, and the election went down to the wire as a nail biter. The endgame was in fact historic: Bush eked out a bare victory by hanging onto Florida's electors with little over 500 votes. Aided by several bizarre rulings by the Florida Supreme Court, the Gore campaign did everything possible to overthrow the vote count. Five weeks passed before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to bring the circus to an end.
Karl Rove, whose somewhat mysterious reputation as electoral wizard did not easily survive the incident, states that the stratagem cost Bush 2% of the vote, losing him at least four states by 1% or less -- New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Oregon. The voters lost were mostly Fundamentalists or Evangelicals deeply disturbed to learn that Bush was a man who took a drink.
The episode left serious marks on the American body politic. It crippled the Bush administration at its very start, even as the Jihadis were preparing to strike. It provided a stab-in-the-back myth for the Democrats, which they used to rally their more loopy followers. It blessed Al Gore with a bogus halo of martyrdom, which he parlayed into vast wealth as a kind of revival-tent environmentalist and at last as a spokesman and partner with the Jihadi-supporting Al Jazeera network. None of those involved, from Connolly to LeHane, has ever expressed a word of regret. Why should they? They had a whole new tactic to exploit.
Corruption goes back a long way in American presidential politics, as the "Corrupt Bargain" and Watergate will attest. But the drunk-driving stratagem was something new -- never before had anyone nearly pocketed the White House by subverting a candidate's deepest and most serious supporters. This tactic had vast possibilities, possibilities that the Democrats have explored in many an election since.
In 2006, after two elections spent banging their heads against Bush's early popularity, the Democrats hit on the tactic of running Blue Dogs -- Democrats with a few surface conservative characteristics. One of the most important from an electoral standpoint was a good rating with the NRA, something possessed by a number of candidates, among them James Webb of Virginia. Although the NRA was questioned over this, it refused to modify its policy of endorsing highly-rated candidates and ended up doing exactly what the Democrats hoped: funneling voters toward an entire squadron of Trojan horse candidates. Numerous voters to whom gun rights were dominant voted according to their usual practice for candidates supported by the NRA, despite the fact that this new run of Blue Dogs opposed everything else they might believe. It was a case of missing the forest in favor of a single tree. While the candidate in question might well be a hunter or an avid gun collector, his election accomplished nothing beyond providing numbers and support for a party adamantly opposed to both the NRA and gun owners everywhere.
The tactic played out superbly (despite the presence of the GOP's resident Merlin Karl Rove working the opposite side), contributing strongly to that year's turnaround in Democratic fortunes. Many of the Blue Dogs won, including Webb -- granted that Republican George Allen gave him a welcome hand with the "Macaca" fiasco. (In short order, Webb wrecked his own political career, ironically enough by means of a confused scandal involving an illegal pistol, in the process humiliating not only himself, but also Congress and the NRA, an unusual triple-header.)
But the new Democratic tactics came onto their own in the wake of 2008 and the appearance of the tea parties as a political force. The tea parties in large part involved the influx of large numbers of Americans who, for a variety of reasons, had previously avoided or overlooked politics. With the election of Obama came the realization that this was no longer a viable option. What followed was a mass internal migration into active politics. The problem lay in the fact that many of these voters, though often of high intelligence and educational achievement, had no previous experience with politics. They had no idea of the amount of sleaze, corruption, and dishonesty that surrounded even the simplest political operation. This naiveté made them easy prey for any determined political operative. The fact that the Republican and conservative establishments chose to regard them as an annoyance rather than potential allies left them wide open to exploitation by the Democrats.
The 2010 Nevada senate race opened as a single combat between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. But then a third-party candidate named Scott Ashjian appeared, representing the "Tea Party of Nevada." Ashjian gave no speeches, did no campaigning, and granted no interviews, simply ran ads underlining his tea party credentials, though no one in the movement had either heard of or would vouch for him. Ashjian, it turned out, was a lawyer with Democratic connections whose claim to fame was representing John Wayne Bobbit, the noted near-eunuch and porn star.
The Ashjian campaign provided just enough confusion and distraction to undermine GOP efforts. Reid, who needed all the help he could get, squeezed out a victory and returned to Washington to not lead the Senate, not offer budgets, and not get bills passed.
But it was 2012 when the technique reached its apotheosis with the campaign of Todd Akin. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was (and is) an incompetent senator of no discernable attainment, widely considered to be the most vulnerable incumbent in the country. Two personable and capable conservatives, Sarah Steelman and John Brunner, were vying for the opportunity to run against her.
But then appeared Todd Akin, an engineer with a spotty and unimpressive political record. No sooner had Akin announced than a parade of TV ads appeared accusing him of being the "most conservative candidate", far more so than his rivals. The odd thing was that these were paid for by the Democratic Party. Opposing parties do not usually run ads involving one another's primaries. Yet the Democrats spent something on the order of $1.5 to $2 million on a series of don't-throw-me-in-that-briar-patch ads transparently designed to call attention to Akin.
They worked. Missouri's Republican voters turned out to vote for Akin with the alacrity of Pavlov's dogs sensing a treat. While it was more than apparent what had transpired, there was little to be done on the national level but shrug and hope for the best.
Until, that is, Akin began a series of obtuse blurts the most well-known of which was his 12th-century treatise on female biology. Like a heat-seeking warhead, Akin had aimed himself at the most sensitive bloc of independent voters, extremely skittish and suspicious of the GOP, blowing apart any chance of holding onto it.
National media moved in like hyenas. GOP candidates across the country condemned Akin (as if they had any choice) while the GOP vowed to deprive him of funding. Requests from around the compass were made for Akin to step down.
It is here that case pressed by Akin supporters (and they do exist, even today) falls apart. Any candidate of principle, on learning that he was the handpicked favorite of the opposition, would think twice, would reconsider his options, would at least condemn the attempt to utilize him against his own party. Akin did none of those things. He simply trundled on blank-eyed, like a cyborg sent back by Skywatch to destroy the GOP.
The NRC relented and granted Akin funding. Several of the more thoughtful and discerning GOP politicians, among them Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, came out in his support. It all availed nothing. Akin went down to inevitable defeat and the worst senator in the country returned to Washington for another term.
The Akin candidacy had effects far beyond Missouri. Democrats used it in attempts to tar other Republicans, including vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. It played directly into the favorite media stereotype of conservatives as medieval halfwits. It nullified GOP efforts to woo undecided female voters.
But more than that, it served as proof of concept, demonstrating that it was possible to make an entire state's roster of conservative voters behave as if they'd been Tasered. This is a remarkable achievement, whatever you may think of Akin or his Democratic manipulators, one that points toward even more extravagant possibilities in the future.
(Akin himself has not completely dropped out of sight. AT received an email from him several weeks ago speculating on the upcoming and inevitable Rapture. Which begs the question as to why he was running for the Senate in first place. Speaking for myself, about the last place I'd want to be caught on Judgment Day, apart from a whorehouse or an adult bookstore, would be the U.S. Congress.)
As for the presidential election, damping the Romney vote would have been child's play for a political organization capable of pulling off the Akin maneuver. Was such an attempt made? It's doubtful that the Dems let the opportunity simply pass. If we consider that the biggest factor in Romney's defeat was the large but unknowable number of diehards who refused to vote for the RINO (some estimates put the number being as high as 2 to 3 million), some light begins to dawn. There were throughout 2012 no end of comment threads, tweets, and Facebook postings urging exactly such action, by people operating anonymously who vanished as soon as the election was over. It's more than likely many of these were on somebody's payroll. Their effect is impossible to gauge, but that they did damp the Romney vote to some extent is just as difficult to deny. Such efforts will become more common, heated, and open in upcoming elections.
Efforts to manipulate the 2014 election are already apparent. Recently, the Democrats launched an attempt to manipulate the Kentucky senatorial elections by forming an alliance with local tea parties. The president of the Louisville Tea Party, Sarah Durand, was approached by Democratic operatives promising a seven-figure investment in the overthrow of Mitch McConnell, the GOP bête noire of many of the woollier tea party factions. The Democratic organizations included MoveOn and Progress Kentucky along with the party SuperPAC.
In truth, the Kentucky effort appears to be aimed at Rand Paul, the state's junior senator and one of the big tea party success stories. Paul struck up an unexpected friendship with McConnell (which in itself tends to undercut the case against the minority leader). McConnell's experience and skill coupled with Paul's brashness and enthusiastic following represents a nightmare for Democratic planners. It should be expected that they'd go to extreme lengths to break any such team up. Do Durand and the other state tea party leaders grasp this? (Sen. Paul himself has doubts that the Kentucky tea parties will become involved in any such effort.)
This puts a new perspective on Karl Rove's recent announcement concerning his "Conservative Victory Project" to vet and support winning GOP congressional candidates. There is in fact an argument for close examination of potential candidates to avoid another Akin -- that is, a candidate selected and supported by liberal Democrats for the sole purpose of undercutting the GOP. But that's not how Rove chose to put it. With his customary combination of perspicacity and class, he instead portrayed himself as the last man on the establishment ramparts, defending traditional blue-blazer Republicanism from the unwashed hordes in their NASCAR ballcaps. With his rhetoric, his posturing, and his choice of a media platform (that conservative stalwart the New York Times), Rove could not have done more to provoke the Republican rank and file. A political technician of good will would have reached out to the tea parties, called a conference, gone over the problem, and presented alternative solutions acceptable to all sides of the conservative coalition. Rove did none of those things in favor of something on the order of a nuclear first strike carried out with the help of left-wing media allies. Unfortunately for him, most of his missiles seem to have exploded in their silos.
Which leaves the problem itself unaddressed. We can only hope that Rove's actions have not rendered the topic radioactive. Some form of organizational and institutional countermeasures must be put in place. We cannot depend on people with otherwise busy lives and full days to attain a lifetime worth of political sophistication in the period of a few years. Those who do dedicate their lives to practical politics must act as watchmen. They must be doubly careful in choosing and promoting candidates. They must be honest and honorable. They must look past the single issues. They must keep an eye open for torpedoes launched only to destroy the conservative cause.
The left has been conning us. But as the old saying goes, you can't con an honest man. If we live up to our best selves, as conservatives and Americans, we can beat this tactic.