Thursday, May 17, 2012

Will Citizen's United come back to bite the Republicans in the ass?

Of course by Citizen's United I'm referring to the Supreme Court decisions that said that corporations had "free speech" rights to spend all the $ they wanted on Super PACs in an effort to influence elections.

We saw in the Republican primary that it was Super PACs that not only kept some candidates in the race beyond their hopes of actually accruing delegates (ie, Gingrich), but that it was through them that the really nasty campaign allegations got an airing.

But this morning Chipsticks picked up a story from the New York Times that is perhaps a harbinger of things to come.
A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the super PAC era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
Its likely that now that this plan has been exposed, it will not be implemented. But it still tells us two very important things.

First of all, even Republicans acknowledge that something like this is likely to blow up in their faces.
Should the plan proceed, it would run counter to the strategy being employed by Mitt Romney’s team, which has so far avoided such attacks. The Romney campaign has sought to focus attention on the economy, and has concluded that personal attacks on Mr. Obama, who is still well liked personally by most independent voters surveyed for polls, could backfire.
Secondly, I've been saying for a long time now, that we need to be prepared for these kinds of stepped-up racist dog whistles to become a part of this campaign. Here's how Adam Sewer put it over a year ago:
The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [National Black Panther Party] case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.
Of course this kind of thing won't come directly from the Romney campaign. They'll have to keep enough distance from it to claim some kind of "plausible deniability" about their involvement.

But given the fact that Republicans have basically given up winning over the support of black and brown Americans, their only hope is to keep President Obama from winning at least 40% of the white vote. I don't see a way to do that other than sound the dog whistles.

Its the Super PACs like the one described in the NYT article that will be given this task. And it will likely backfire. So I'm looking forward to the day the Republicans rue the day they started this whole mess.


  1. Seriously? Their big idea for 2012 run clips of stuff that got comprehensively dealt with in 2008? Do they _want_ Obama to give that speech again?

    A more genuine question, smarty - do dogwhistles have any effect on independents? It's all very well to rustle up the base, that ain't gonna be the deciding factor here.

    1. I think that you're right. The folks who are going to let race be a factor in their vote are already reliably in the Mitt tent. This sort of effort doesn't seem too likely to me to sway the folks who haven't already decided to vote against that there black guy.

    2. Hey sib!

      I suspect what they're aiming for are those working class white folks who are susceptible to having their racist fears ramped up. I actually think they might still be able to get some traction with this kind of thing there. I know that my tendency has always been to underestimate the power of racism.

      As an example, I work with a woman who's husband is white working class of the older generation. He's been a reliable Democrat all his life. In the 2008 primary she told me he was supporting Clinton solely because he didn't want an African American president.

      Now I suspect that, in the end, he voted for Obama. But he's not an independent either. I simply tell that story to demonstrate how deep racism is still embedded in this culture.

      On the other hand, I do want to say that I think this will backfire. As you point out - Obama is very capable of dealing effectively with something like this. He actually understands those white working class voter's fear, as he demonstrated in his speech about racism. And it might actually help to give him the opportunity to demonstrate that once again.

      The challenge would come if these assholes every get smart enough to figure out how to do more subtle dog whistles that tend to create backlash on those who call them out. This overkill.

  2. I'm convinced that they've been able to bs the people so long that they believe they can get away with saying the sky isn't blue. I predict that it'll cost them more than an election. What will they say when people decide to stop supporting the Cubs? The players themselves could be upset the same way the St Louis Rams were upset about Limbaugh seeking ownership. What's really sad is that instead of wasting money on SuperPacs they could've helped the homeless out or something.