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Obama's Grievance Politics
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Despite high unemployment and soaring gas prices, it seems the Obama administration may survive the November election. This is due not only to Republican infighting but also to the support given to liberal Democrats in the media, educational establishment, and entertainment industry. But even these factors may not tell everything. Perhaps more importantly, Obama and his advisors have begun playing up ethnic and gender grievances in a way that may hurt Republicans.

The administration has taken a number of positions intended to mobilize its base in the same record numbers as it was able to do in 2008. It has doggedly opposed attempts by states like Arizona and Alabama to deal through legislation with massive illegal immigration. The feds have not addressed this problem with any particular vigilance, but they have denied the states the power to cope with it. At the same time Obama has suggested that dislike for Hispanics and other minorities lie at the base of this heated resistance to the influx of illegals into certain states, a situation that, by the way, has added significantly to local social costs and crime. More recently, the administration has drummed up another supposed indication of Republican bigotry, namely the insistence by GOP officials that would-be voters provide identification, to guard against fraud. This law is supposedly aimed at keeping blacks from voting, particularly in Southern states, since it apparently goes against a way of life that excludes identifying oneself before voting. Civil rights leaders have now joined the chorus of condemnation against “racist” Republicans who expect voters to provide the same ID-forms as might be asked of someone buying a bottle of booze.

The recent testimony concerning publicly financed contraception by Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who is considerably older and more politically engaged than the media would lead us to believe, opened can of worms for the by now anxious GOP another. Obama managed to turn to his advantage an issue that was creating flak for him, requiring religiously affiliated institutions to pay for birth control and abortifacients. Fluke became a stand-in for every victim of (a long-gone) male patriarchy. The fact that GOP shock-jock Rush Limbaugh weighed in by insulting Fluke complicated the problem. Academics and administrators, including clergy, fell over themselves defending Fluke and accusing Limbaugh and the party he fronts for of being complicit in the high crime of sexism. The gender gap surfaced again dramatically in recent polls, to the detriment of Republicans, and this has impacted most severely on Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate who has been emphasizing his religious traditionalism. In a two-way race, Santorum would be eaten alive by Obama.


There are two approaches to this appeal to minority grievances that the GOP might take. One is the usual “kiss-up” method, which consists of apologizing to the aggrieved minorities and even promising to work harder to accommodate them. Representative of this approach is longtime AEI fixture Linda Chavez, who favors amnestying illegals and is now going after Romney as an anti-immigrationist. Apparently the GOP frontrunner has dared to hire and take advice from Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who once played a key role in the anti-illegal immigrant law in Arizona. Romney has also gained the support of Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor who signed that bill.

I’ve no idea how the GOP can gain votes by favoring the “road to citizenship” for illegals. They are unlikely in this contest to outbid the other party; except for Cubans, the vast majority of Hispanics are Democrats. The latest polls indicate that 86 percent of Hispanic voters plan to vote for Obama, as they did when he ran in 2008, despite the strenuous efforts made by Bush and McCain to pay special attention to Latino lobbies. While all votes are valuable, GOP leaders should consider that it would be stupid to alienate those already in one’s camp by reaching out frenetically to natural Democratic constituencies.

The GOP should be counterattacking Obama’s stirring up of minority grievances even more relentlessly than it is doing right now. As late as 2008 the Supreme Court by a 6 to 3 vote upheld the constitutionality of an Indiana ID-law. When Georgia passed an ID-law in 2008, there was not a drop but higher numbers of minorities who voted in the next election. The GOP should not shrink from exposing the longtime activist identity of Ms. Fluke. It should also go after hypocritical Democratic partisans who are screaming about attacks on Fluke but who never complained when female Republican figures were insulted even more grossly and persistently. Once having slammed its opponents for deceit and hypocrisy, the GOP should then resume its attack on Obama for his wretched handling of the economy.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2012 Election 
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  1. Aaron says: • Website

    You are shocked, you say, that the Republican Party’s southern strategy, demogoguery on voter fraud, and anti-immigrant demagoguery has hurt its standing in the polls among the targeted populations? Let me help you to the fainting couch.

    You note the “strenuous efforts made by Bush and McCain to pay special attention to Latino lobbies”, but why no mention of the anti-immigrant demagoguery that poisoned those efforts – that had McCain running against his own record on immigration during his run for his party’s nomination? It’s a self-inflicted wound.

    You say, “It should also go after hypocritical Democratic partisans who are screaming about attacks on Fluke but who never complained when female Republican figures were insulted even more grossly and persistently.”

    First, are you stating that the “hypocritical Democratic partisans” were wrong in the past when they didn’t speak out, or are you arguing that they’re wrong to speak out now? If it’s the former, then you’re in agreement with their current criticism. If it’s the latter, you’re arguing that sexist and misogynist language in the public sphere should not draw criticism.

    Second, can you name some of the “hypocritical Democratic partisans” you are describing? Can you identify even one? Please identify even one of the “hypocritical Democratic partisans” who, when asked about Bill Maher using objectionable language in a monologue about Sarah Palin, offered any defense of his choice of words, but who tore into Rush Limbaugh. Because right now this comes across as a hollow man argument – the fabrication of an opponent who holds a position that is easily refuted, but which is not actually held by the real-life critics of Limbaugh.

    For that matter, when you complain that “Republican figures [who] were insulted even more grossly and persistently”, are we talking about anything more than Sarah Palin and Bill Maher? Please share your examples.

  2. This clearly is not written as an endorsement of the GOP and its neocon foreign policy. Every now and then, however, I notice how profoundly disgusting the conventional Left is. Needless to say, even if the GOP were not around, the left wing of the Democratic Party would continue to be taking away our freedoms and engaging in fraudulent electoral practices.

  3. Sheldon says:

    “Fraudulent electoral practices” is a flat-out lie. Examples of so-called fraud are a small fraction of the number of black people, students, and the elderly who would be disenfranchised by the photo ID requirement. If you really believe that the purpose of that legislation is solely to eliminate fraud you are seriously delusional; it is a last-gasp effort by Republicans to hold back the tide of voters who will soon permanently relegate them to minority status.

    By the way, what freedoms have Democrats taken away from you? The freedom to discriminate? The freedom to experience poverty in old age? The freedom to pay less than minimum wage? Yeah, totalitarian stuff for sure.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The rethugs have been living the politics of grievance and victimisation for the last 8+ years. Their relentless hypocrisy, coupled with their focus on the destruction of the president with policies detrimental to the country as a whole, have made any claims regarding the so-called grievance politics of the left to be without foundation.

    I am not aware of any profoundly left wing (or even mildly progressive) element of the democratic party that has any meaningful influence on current policy. Advising the rethugs to pursue people such Ms. Fluke is a dead-end pursuit of a policies bourne of opportunism and without any backing in the convictions or beliefs of the ruthugs.

    With a little good fortune the rethugs will continue to ride the birth control pony over the cliff and hasten their path to an electoral drubbing, an outcome that would be beneficial to the country (and also, in fact, to the now dormant republican party).

  5. E says:

    And the devolution of the TAC commentariate to second-rate Kossacks and DU trolls (“rethuglicans”) proceeds rapidly apace… Of course, I treat claims of “voter disenfranchisement” of minorities and “students” (?!?) who are too “poor” to get an (at-most) nominally-priced photo ID with the respect it deserves.

  6. IanH says:

    I agree with E that most of these commenters are ridiculous. This sandbox-level name-calling shouldn’t be approved by the moderation staff. It’s embarrassing frankly to have to read this verbal diarrhea.

  7. I see the Tax Recipient Class is in full swing tonight. One question. When this is truly a minority majority state of hipsters and parasites, who will feed you? Who among the minority formerly known as Americans will defend you? How will you keep us leaving you all to freeze in the dark?

    Be careful what you wish for, parasites always die with the host.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    End. Immigration. Now.

  9. Sheldon says:

    Yes, when the facts aren’t on your side, insulting those who disagree with you and calling them names has become the standard conservative last refuge. E and IanH, please look up the figures on the amount of “voter fraud” these new measures are intended to eliminate – and compare that to the number of people without voter ID who will be required to obtain same. You might also look up the history of the poll tax, and its effects on voter rights. THEN come back and make an argument.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Sheldon and Aaron,

    You apparently haven’t noticed but this website is called the “The American Conservative” not “The American Marxist”. The fact that your sole argument against Voter ID laws is that they disenfranchise people who are too stupid and lazy to get a photo ID is incredibly revealing. You think people who can’t figure out the ID application at the DMV are somehow capable of understanding politics, current events, and the traits necessary to be an effective leader.

  11. IanH says:

    I never called anyone a name.

    I’m also not surprised that a Rod Dreher troll is comparing a Photo ID to a poll tax. Typical embarrassing bratty liberals.

  12. TomB says:

    It seems to me that, fundamentally, there can be little quibble with the Professor’s idea that Obama is playing grievance politics. At best, as some of the commentators here have suggested, he just isn’t playing same all that hard or unfairly, but he’s still doing it.

    On the other hand what’s the Republican Party been turning to ever since Karl Rove has become its intellectual strategist? Maybe not the “ethnic and gender” warriors that the Professor rightly pegs the Dems with, but with a hugely healthy dose of religious and class warfare for sure.

    A big huge turn from what went before, with folks like Reagan constantly saying—and being rewarded by the citizenry for doing so—that they object to the idea of harsh coalition politics and etc.

    Indeed it strikes me that the more that the Republicans have turned into special sector warriors it has opened the way for the Dems—certainly taken advantage of by Obama in particular—to be less focused only on their special interest coalition partners and such. Lots less divisive rhetoric coming from them and Obama to my ears at least; and look, for instance, at how clearly Obama has tried to especially stay away from any constant, harsh race partisanship.

    The Stupid Party takes careful aim and shoots itself in the fundamentals once again.

  13. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Maybe Republicans should be pissed at Rush, for putting them in a position to defend un-gentlemanly behavior.

    Or, they should stop defending the behavior of a rude right-wing man-child.

  14. Tom S says:

    “Hypocritical” partisan Democrats stirring up people on contraception is akin to holding open the door so Republicans can rush through it and fall off a cliff.

  15. Ben says:

    I cannot prove the point, but I assert with confidence that were the expected partisan impact on voter turnout of these various tightened voting rules reversed, the pious concerns about voter fraud expressed by so many Republicans would evaporate overnight. And to be sure, those same concerns would quite likely be suddenly discovered by Democrats. It’s all about the power politcs, and a fine example of why it is so difficult to take anything the power seekers say at face value. Don’t trust — just verify.

  16. Sheldon says:

    Ian, “ridiculous comments,” “verbal diarrhea,” “embarrassing,” “bratty,” and “troll” not name-calling?

    As for Mr. Bearry, let us unpack his message: 1) only conservatives are permitted to comment here; 2) anyone who disagrees with a post is a Marxist; 3) only stupid and lazy people would have any trouble complying with the ID requirement.

    Have some of the conservative commenters here lost all capacity for calm and introspection?

  17. Matt says:

    There is no rational reason to oppose voter ID. The real reason is that Democrats rely on the stupid vote for their victories. At least they could make it explicit. “We oppose this voter ID law because there are all kinds of deadbeats and losers out there who don’t even know where city hall is, and we need their votes!”

  18. M_Young says:

    What exactly is ‘demagogic’ about wanting immigration laws enforced?

  19. Universal suffrage has a rather long history in practice at this point to be considered a radical, unconservative idea. And if you’re not driving a car or returning home from abroad, being without adequate state documentation is generally not yet a crime in these United States.

    But I suppose these arguments are not strong enough to sway the “conservatives” from the unrelenting, magnetic force of innovation, of which they are so fond, otherwise. And the civil libertarian aspects of course are not enough to keep the libertarians from insisting on further governmental gazetting of our lives, of which they are likewise so fond.

    So by all means, good men of the right, throw out your principles and undermine your arguments to keep drooling, uneducated liberals away from the polls. I’ll be looking forward to citing your shortcomings in the years to come as you govern with an iron-clad majority and without an unbent scruple.

  20. What about the conservatives promising to get the government off our backs and eliminate unnecessary regulation? This is the definition of unnecessary, burdensome regulation. As Mr Patrick pointed out, there is no legal requirement for ID except for certain narrow situations. There is no evidence of voter fraud that would be solved by voter ID. None has been offered. This is clearly an attempt to limit the franchise for poor and elderly.

  21. I’ve seen Mr. Gottfried make this argument about a dozen times, and I’ve never, ever seen any empirical evidence that his strategy would increase the number of non-Hispanic white votes for the Republican Party. The Republican Party’s moderation, which Gottfried detests, on issues such as immigration appeals to moderate, college-educated, non-Hispanic white voters, a group that used to vote consistently Republican. Both the moderate strategy (the Frum strategy) and Gottfried’s strategy (the Sailer strategy) completely write off non-white voters and attempt to attract one segment of white voters without alienating other segments of white voters. But from what I’ve read, neither Frum nor Sailer nor Gottfried has given evidence that his own approach will lead to a net increase in white voters for the Republican Party, i.e., that it will attract more whites than it will drive away.

  22. Sheldon says:

    From USA Today:

    “Under new or proposed laws, more voters would be required to show photo ID at the polls, or to prove their U.S. citizenship. Same-day voter registration would be ended in some places, strict new limits would make it harder to mount voter registration drives, and early voting has been cut back. . . You’d think there was a raging epidemic of fraud around the country to justify all this diligent effort, but if there is, it’s awfully hard to detect. As evidence of the need for Texas’ tough new photo ID law, Attorney General Greg Abbott noted that the state had prosecuted 50 cases of vote fraud over the past decade — an average of five cases a year. Not exactly a crime wave.

    In fact, what’s really going on is a fight for partisan advantage. Republicans, overwhelmingly the authors of these new restrictions, benefit by holding down turnout of those least likely to register: poorer, older and minority citizens who tend to vote Democratic. Democrats, of course, want the opposite.

    There has been a push back. A state judge in Wisconsin blocked that state’s photo ID law on the grounds that it violated the state’s constitution, and the Obama Justice Department used its authority under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to bar photo ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. . . .

    Requiring voters to identify themselves, even with a photo ID, is a safeguard that helps build confidence in the process, and the Supreme Court found the requirement constitutional in a 2008 decision on Indiana’s photo ID law. But while carrying picture ID is second nature for the vast majority of Americans, about 10% of citizens don’t have one. They don’t drive, they don’t travel by plane, and they don’t do other things that routinely require most people to show a driver’s license or something else with a picture on it. But they work, they pay taxes and they certainly should be able to vote. If a state requires its citizens to show a photo ID at the polls, officials should bend over backward to make sure that ID is easy to get.

    The Justice Department says that’s not the case in Texas, where Hispanic registered voters are about twice as likely as non-Hispanics to lack a photo ID. The department says that while a Texas voter ID card is free, getting one can be a challenge. Eighty one of Texas’ 254 counties have no driver’s license offices, and one state senator said his constituents would have to make a 176-mile round trip for the card. . . .”

  23. No one needs to advance a justification for insisting that the law be enforced. And if there is even an appearance of law breaking the white majority has every right to see to the integrity of the vote. I personally have seen a lot of voter fraud and most of it was minority based. Claiming over and over again that this doesn’t exist is an insult to our intelligence.

    The sailer strategy will work when enough college educated whites find themselves undercut in the marketplace by immigrants working for less and networking market dominance in higher income fields.

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