Friday, February 20, 2004

NASCAR Dads Give Bush the Finger

If you have any doubt that Bush is in troublelook no further than the vaunted NSCAR dads. Seems a number of these guys and gals are pretty fed up with Bush's crap. In fact, Bush's visit to Daytona, reported by a clueless, lickspittle press as a love-fest for Bush, was in fact an impromptu protest once you looked beyond the pit.

As it always the case, Bush brought his bubble of denial with him and all was well in range of the cameras, but in the stands brewed resentment and rage. Beyond the shouting, the slogans, and cat-calls, hundreds of middle fingers stood in not-so-solemn salute as Bush's motorcade drove by the stands. It seems that if you kick a loyal dog often enough, even he'll eventually get sick of it and bite you in the ass. Democrats need to reach out to these abused and abandoned Republicans and bring them back the fold. Lower income, rural Americans are the Democrat's natural constituency; we must take them back if we want to regain a decisive majority.

Reagan was able to pull away millions of working class Democrats from the party, despite his policies horribly deleterious effect upon them, simply by cultural appeals. Democrats need to de-metrosexualize their image, and project a virile, pious, family-oriented, values based, protective image combined with a cogent and forceful explanation of our policy preferences.

We don't have to bash gays or play to racists to do this; believing that appealing to low income rural voters requires such tactics is itself a classist prejudice. We do have to affirm more stongly mainstream values. We don't have to legislate to protect those values. We don't have to attempt to punish minority groups. Nor even stop helping the oppressed or marginalized gain equal rights. One can genuinely express approval of and admiration for a set of values without basing policy around them.

The Republicans cut taxes, reduce the size of government, are fiscally responsible, support a strong defense, support a positive business environment to provide jobs, and dislike entitlements. Almost any America can give you this list in some form. Of course, most of it is untrue, but it is simple, cogent, and semiotically appealing. What do Democrats do? Raise taxes, create big bloated programs for the benefit of union cronies, are wasteful, skimp on defense, create entitlements that people don't deserve, and snivel about the enviroment at the expense of people. Well that doesn't sound very good. We have been semiotically mugged by the Right. We need to ambush them back. They don't do the things they say they do, we don't get the results the claim we do. We need to be better at communicating these facts forcefully to the least common denominator.

Dean does a fairly good job of explaining policy priorities in an appropriate manner, and Edwards does a very good job of talking about race, values, and class in ways that appeal to rural and lower income voters. Kerry and Clark do a good job of projecting a virile, protective, and patriotic image. Lieberman is nothing if not pious. Between them, many Republicans have taken notice of what is on offer in the Democratic party and many will like what they see in contrast to the empty rhetoric of Bush. Our primary process may do more to secure the eventual victory of the nominee than anything he'll do himself in the primary. Certainly, any reasonably intelligent nominee is going to make sure that these candidates remain in the field adding the appealing aspects of thier own platforms to the Democratic message. Only by opening the party wide to new influences and styles, and by embracing those cultural cues which Republicans have exploited, particularly patriotism and religious values, will we retake the White House, conquer Congress, and return Democrats to their position as the big tent majority party.


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