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Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 05:26 pm

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

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Glenn Beck
Democrats throughout the country and right here in Illinois are pushing a two-pronged negative strategy to retain their hold on power in these uncertain times.

The first is to do as much opposition research as possible on their Republican opponents to keep races “localized” with nasty revelations about individual candidates. The second is to try to tie the Republicans as closely as they can to the more radical elements within the GOP, including the “tea party” leaders.

This could be summed up as the “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” strategy. Make voters loathe the Republicans with nasty revelations about their voting records, personal backgrounds, etc. Then make them fear the Republicans by tying them to some unsympathetic characters with radical ideas who are regularly seen screaming at TV cameras.

It’s not a new strategy, but it’s pretty much the only thing the Democrats have going for them. The economy sucks, so everyone is fearful about the future. And a large number of Americans have, for various reasons, grown to loathe the president, his policies and his Democratic allies. 

Fear and loathing is what’s killing the Democrats right now, so they’re trying to reflect that back on the opposition and use it to gin up their own disappointed and even embarrassed political base as much as possible. Only a tiny handful of Democrats say they are “excited” about voting this November. That scares Democratic leaders right down to their bones.

Last week, the Democratic National Committee launched a push to pressure congressional Republicans to say whether or not they will join the new Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House. The point was to either tie them to the tea party or force the Republicans to alienate the tea party crowd when they distance themselves.

The very same day, the state Senate Democrats here blasted out a fundraising e-mail to supporters warning of “Illinois’ Radical Right.” 

“The Senate GOP is showing its true colors,” the message began. “They are welcoming notorious right-wing extremists Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart to our state to help raise money and generate support for their candidates. We can’t let the far right hijack our values or our government. These are the people that want to repeal the minimum wage, get rid of Social Security, and abolish the Department of Education.”

The e-mail was sent after I reported that state Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House GOP Leader Tom Cross, among other top Republicans, are listed as “hosts” of an event featuring Beck and Breitbart.

Beck is a super-controversial Fox News host who is perhaps best known for his rants about how this or that liberal policy is directly traceable to Adolph Hitler’s Nazi ideology. Breitbart is an amazingly successful online entrepreneur who made the news recently with his attacks against the NAACP’s alleged “racism.”

The Republicans say they really have no choice but to participate in events like next month’s Right Nation 2010. Organizers say they expect to draw 10,000 participants, many of them Illinois Republicans. Ignoring the gathering would be more dangerous for the Illinois Republicans than co-hosting the event, they explained – over and over again in numerous, and often frantic telephone calls. Radogno, the Senate Republicans pointed out more than once, won’t even be at the Right Nation event. They know the dangers, and they don’t want any media coverage.

But the Democrats also pointed out that at least seven Senate Republican candidates this year have tied themselves to radical elements.

For instance, downstate Sen. Deanna Demuzio’s Republican opponent, Sam McCann, “proudly supports Glenn Beck’s  9/12 movement,” according to the Democrats. Asked for supporting information, the Democrats forwarded a link to a downstate Beck-related group which McCann spoke to at least twice.

Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) was hit for wanting to “start a Tea Party Caucus like ultra-conservative ‘hero’ Michelle Bachman.” Syverson posted a comment on Facebook (later deleted) saying he liked the idea of a state Senate Tea Party Caucus and would “look at starting that when I return.”

So, will any of this work? Some of those ties to the tea party were pretty tenuous, but it certainly made the Democrats’ job easier when Leader Radogno agreed to co-host that Beck/Breitbart event. Whether the Democrats in both chambers can translate this as a dangerous move to the right by the GOP is yet to be seen. At the moment, the Dems are swimming against an imcredibly powerful tide.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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