BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Democrats have frequently been caught on the unpopular side of sensitive issues during elections. That does not necessarily mean the wrong side, just the side that is unpopular with a large portion of voters. What may appear to thoughtful people as the right side may, in fact, be viewed as the wrong side by a majority of the population.
Republicans have often framed elections in just such a fashion. They have managed to have controversial ballot issues appear in the fall elections. Their group has frequently had a petition or referendum dealing with defense of marriage, abortion, or an anti-gay issue. Or, perhaps it is some issue dealing with God in the schools, creationism in the classrooms, posting of the Ten Commandments, flag burning, or something similar that brings out the religious right voters negative to the Democratic candidates, who may take the unpopular side of these controversies by principle.
In the upcoming election Republicans and their powerful media propaganda machine have managed to take even the accomplishments of the Democratic administration and make these controversial to many average voters. They have misconstrued a huge step forward to more affordable health care for all the people, and they have made it seem something sinister. The TARP bailout enacted under Bush by Democrats saved the financial system from the brink of disaster, and it has already made billions in profits. But it has been made to appear as a taxpayer giveaway. The banks, mortgage funds, and the car companies are paying the money back.
When the administration pushed through regulation of banks to help consumers, Republicans have labeled this as “big government” evil. While demanding tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans have pinned the label of “lazy” and “welfare” on unemployment insurance.
One could defeat such wrongheaded propaganda in a society with a really open and unbiased mass communications system, or with a nation of educated, thoughtful, open-minded people. But, sadly, we have neither.
Calling themselves the Tea Party, there is a large group of ultra conservative Republicans who seem to pride themselves upon their ignorance of issues in depth and upon having a straightforward, simple-minded position on nearly everything. Being ignorant or foolish by accident of birth and upbringing is one thing, but being deliberately so is another. These folk have chosen to associate and listen only to those as ignorant or biased as themselves.
There are issues which are now being framed by Republicans for the next election. Some of these are simplistic slogans around their concepts such as big government, freedom and patriotism, entitlements and the welfare system, tax cuts, or big spending and the deficit. They are adding to that mix Muslim hating, immigrant hating, and gay baiting.
Democratic candidates will likely find themselves defending gay marriage, the New York Muslim mosque, and “anchor” babies, and illegal immigrants. Some level of mass fervor on these issues is being strategically fomented all around the country. By and large, Democrats have been taking “constitutional” positions on these issues. But that may not turn out to be the most popular position by the time the Republican media machine does its work, and the fall election rolls around.
Who would have ever thought that it would become unpopular to defend the provisions of the First Amendment which guarantees the freedom to worship without government interference? Republican presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich and others have already boldly declared: “No more Muslim mosques.” The New York mosque, and the freedom of religion, will be an issue this fall with many voters.
There is a movement among Republican leaders to change the 14th Amendment, which brought citizenship to the slaves freed by the Civil War, stating that all born or naturalized in this country are citizens. They are concerned about the so-called “anchor” babies of illegal Mexican immigrants born in this country, and therefore citizens. No doubt some Mexican families have taken advantage of that provision, and they have pled their case to stay in this country based on their child’s citizenship. Many people think this is not quite right, in spite of the Constitution.
Courts have been busy making marriage a fundamental right of freedom under the 14th Amendment’s preservation of basic rights [reference Declaration of Independence] under the due process of law. Many Democrats may question the far-reaching nature of those decisions, but they have great respect for the Constitution and for the rights of the people. But there is a large segment of the public who will never agree with that interpretation and application of marriage. They will just not buy that definition of marriage rights, and the issue will be used against Democrats.
If the fall elections hinge upon issues such as those described, the Democrats will have difficulty. They will be taking the less popular positions. These are harder to defend before a public ill prepared to understand legal and ethical nuances and prone to simple slogan thinking on moral questions.
Because the Republican positions on all issues tend to be slogan-like and simple, it will be difficult for Democrats to put together a big enough block of voters resistant to that siren song of darkly accusative simplicity in Republican ads and their media. That will be the Democratic challenge.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer