Stories like this make me happy.
On a recent morning in early March, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened to protect the American flag from burning, stomping, shredding, and the notion that, as Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch put it, “urinating or defecating on the flag is some form of speech.” The Committee’s Republican majority had carefully assembled the audience for this hearing. The room was filled with dozens of aging veterans, wearing medals and dark red VFW hats. Also in attendance was a hero of perhaps even greater red-state status: NASCAR driver John Andretti, who would testify that “those who desecrate the flag have total disregard for our military.”
In other words, the hearing had all the trappings of a perfect, election-year GOP stunt. But then things got a little more complicated. Committee Democrats, such as Richard Durbin of Illinois, noted that Republicans had voted down a Senate amendment increasing veterans’ health spending the previous night. “Giving a veteran a flag is not a substitute for giving our vets the quality health care they were promised,” Durbin said, causing brows to furrow under those VFW caps. Committee Republicans were furious. GOP Senator Larry Craig of Idaho nearly sputtered with rage as he defensively rambled about shortened lines at a veterans’ clinic in Boise and vowed that veterans’ spending would eventually be “plussed-up” in the budget process. The cultural issue had become an economic one; Democrats had found a soft spot.
It was a potentially telling moment. For weeks, cocky Senate Republicans have been bragging about their plans to use cultural wedge issues like flag-burning to torment John Kerry. Earlier this month, The Washington Post detailed GOP plans for “a series of debates and votes that will highlight the candidates’ positions on divisive issues.” In Roll Call recently, a GOP aide vowed that, “[w]hen John Kerry comes back, we will make [the Senate] the stage to define him.” Another warned that the Senate will be filled with legislative “bear traps” for the unsuspecting Massachusetts Democrat.
Nice try. For all their tough talk, Senate Republicans can barely keep themselves organized, much less bring down the Democratic nominee. Indeed, lately it’s Senate Democrats who have been on the offensive, successfully pressing issues central to Kerry’s campaign. Republicans may have cultural issues, but Democrats have economic ones with more resonance among voters. And, if the going ever does get tough, Kerry can simply skip town. Rather than being a quagmire for Kerry, the Senate could serve as a useful campaign tool.
I haven’t kept up with what’s going on in Politics lately so I wasn’t aware that the GOP was going to try and make use of wedge issues in the coming election, but it doesn’t surprise me seeing as they don’t have a whole lot of anything else in the way of stuff to use as of late. Polls indicate that what most Americans seem to be most concerned about include stuff like the economy, jobs, unemployment, and health care which are all issues that the Democrats seem to have the upper hand in.
Given stories like the strip-search one I posted earlier I’m not entirely convinced that Americans won’t prove to be incredibly stupid and end up re-electing Bush anyway, but it gives me hope just the same.
Found via Atrios.