At a time when the country is facing a profound economic crisis, two unresolved wars, profound achievement gaps in education and a skyrocketing deficit, what kinds of ads are Republican candidates for the Senate running? Ads that lay out an agenda for the future?
No, ads that refer to the Village People to demonize gays. At least that’s what Senator Roger Wicker thinks is the most important thing to talk to the people of Mississippi about:
In California, a state facing massive budget shortfalls, conservative groups are more interested in whether or not gay couples can marry, and are running classy, intellectual ads like this:
Ads and campaigns like these, though no doubt hurtful to some people, demonstrate not only Republican desperation in this election year, but one of the reasons the GOP is headed to permanent minority status if they don’t update the message. It’s not just that they still think that the Village People is a hip reference; it’s that they believe that these messages will continue to resonate in the future.
I think many young conservatives already have to feel a sense of cognitive dissonance when they vote Republican: many earnestly believe in the party’s national security and spending platforms, no matter how little they were followed by President Bush, but can’t feel comfortable voting for bigots. I don’t believe that they want to be associated with a fear-based, rabidly anti-gay agenda. They know that their gay and lesbian friends deserve the same rights they enjoy. They probably know that some of their Republican colleagues are gay. As time passes, fewer and fewer of the young, educated people who do the heavy lifting of local politics are going to want to be associated with hate campaigns like these.
That’s part of the trap that the conservative movement has set for itself. The more they appeal to “the base,” the less likely moderate Americans who are more concerned about their paychecks and their children’s schools than gay marriage will be willing to support them. If they step away from the agenda of the base for a moment, though, Republicans are cannibalized by their own. Ask John Ward here in Montana. Ask Christopher Buckley. Ask David Frum. Ask John McCain, who got stuck with the Barracuda to appease the base, and saw his campaign disintegrate into venom and bile.
Look, I hate these ads. I hate the fact that real people suffer real harm from a political and social movement that defines them as aberrant human beings, but I have faith that young Americans, liberal and conservative are beginning to and will continue to see through this message.
The pact that the modern Republican Party has made with the kooky, hate-filled fringe is an embrace they won’t easily escape, and they deserve to be stuck with these people for as long as they have tried to subject America to their policies.