Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wedging the base

E.J. Dionne says it well:

This month's offensive by President Bush and his allies in Congress against gay marriage and flag burning proves one thing: The Republican Party thinks its base of social conservatives is a nest of dummies who have no memories and respond like bulls whenever red flags are waved in their faces.

Yes, but they keep voting for him. In large enough numbers to push him over the top in '04, and that's precisely the strategy at work here. The base -- the bigoted base that, however disappointed with Bush's failure to do anything substantive in terms of same-sex marriage, would turn America into a puritanical theocracy -- may not turn out in November, taking a stand by refusing to vote, but where else can Bush turn? Congressional Republicans are running away from him, or at least running without him, he has no domestic agenda, and Iraq remains the monster problem that isn't about to go away anytime soon.

Oh, sure, Bush will make a public spectacle of pulling some troops out of Iraq, hoping to cash in at the ballot box on the inevitably tearful reunion scenes, withdrawal a sign of victory, and he'll continue to take credit for whatever success he can fabricate with respect to Iran, and bluster feebly if success turns to failure, and there may very well be another terrorist threat, just in time to resurrect the culture of fear leading up to the election, but Republicans (and Bush's legacy) may not have a shot without the usual suspects, those good ol' wedge issues like same-sex marriage and flag burning.

In case you haven't noticed, neither same-sex partnerships nor the burning of the Stars and Stripes has destroyed American civilization. (And, by the bye, we're doing just fine up here in Canada, thank you very much, even with all those loving gay and lesbian couples getting married and all.) But that's clearly of no concern to those who would stick in the wedge and divide man from man, woman from woman, American from American, Republican from Democrat. It's all about arousing the base, about buying votes with prejudice and pandering. It's about using bigotry to win over the bigots.

Welcome to Bush's America, 2006. Things will only get worse heading into November.

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