Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will the Real America Please Stand Up?

CQ Politics:

There might have been a time when Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin could talk about “the real America” without causing a big uproar, or when Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota could get away with questioning the patriotism of the Democratic presidential nominee. But not this year, and not the way they did it.

Last week, Palin apologized for praising “the real America” and “pro-America areas of this great nation” at a North Carolina fundraiser. And Bachmann put her re-election in jeopardy after an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” in which she pondered the possibility that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama “may have anti-American views” and challenged the news media to produce an “expose” of whether members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”

Palin and Bachmann got the most attention for their remarks, but many Republicans on the trail have recently invoked the notion that they stood for genuine American values while the Democratic opposition scorned such things. Nancy Pfotenhauer, a top adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain , claimed that “real Virginia” would support him even if he didn’t gain traction in the Democratic-dominated northern part of the commonwealth. Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina claimed that “liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God,” and Rep. John R. “Randy” Kuhl Jr. of New York said Democrats want Americans to “suffer” for their own political gain.

Their comments fueled a backlash that seemed unusually strong, given that Republicans have drawn more public support in past years with only slightly milder appeals to patriotism and the virtues of small-town America. Even Palin drew praise, not jeers, for noting in her convention speech that “we grow good people in our small towns” who “do some of the hardest work” and are “always proud of America” (though a chorus of liberal jeers eventually rose when the lines were attributed to the late extreme-right columnist Westbrook Pegler).

The difference this time, say some GOP strategists, is that these Republicans went overboard with their rhetoric and actively shut out large groups of people. Others, however, believe the significance of the controversy goes beyond rhetorical excess. Democratic strategists see the backlash as a sign of broader damage to the credibility of the Republican Party, while outside analysts think the party has misjudged the public’s appetite for such attacks at a time of widespread economic anxiety.

I think it's more than that. I think we're finally seeing the end of the Culture Wars.

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