Focus on flip-flops could lead to Republican floundering

It must seem quite ironic to an alert electorate that theRepublican National Committee (RNC) and the Bush-Cheney re-electionteam have put all their proverbial political money on pinning aliberal, flip-flopping tale on the donkey. The efforts of the RNC,and their “war room” at the Boston Democratic Convention, is gearedto continually lament elite liberalism and foment the idea thatJohn F. Kerry’s answers are nothing more than platitudes blowing inthe winds. Recent polls have shown that this unified Republicanmessage has done credible damage to Kerry’s election hopes amongindependent voters and undecided voters. This political memo tovoters, however, is dangerous for Republicans as well.

To pin a liberal tail on Kerry was not too difficult a task. Areview of his long, diverse and detailed voting record in theSenate allows for many different interpretations of “liberal,””moderate” and even “conservative.” But the National Journal’srubric of liberal ideology is what the RNC has fastened theiropining on and they are sticking to it. And, yes, according to theNational Journal, Kerry is bleeding blue. But to their surprise,his blue blood seems to resonate with a smaller group of votersthan the RNC hoped for. In many ways liberalism doesn’t seem sonasty in the middle of the neo-conservative debacle that is theBush administration.

The RNC’s response is to shift from the liberal labeling toclassifying Kerry-Edwards as so, so far out of the mainstream thatthey don’t even recognize “real” U.S. values, whatever those are(it is always a different set depending on who you ask). In this,the RNC may be more effective, but outside of that mainstream youwill also find George W. Bush and millions of people in the UnitedStates who are no longer as eager to believe that Bush leads withthe mainstream in mind (what a different world we would live in ifhe did).

That leaves, lastly, the corniest tactic of the RNC and so farthe most effective. The Republicans cannot stop crowing that Kerryis a flip-flopper, prone to making up his mind then re-making hismind depending on the polls, pundits and political points. The RNChas directed their protesters to bring flip-flop sandals to theirKerry protests and to strew them about, especially over telephonelines and the like. While not brilliant political art of persuasion(more like Wal-Mart than Prince Bismarck), the irritation of suchpageantry is evident; consider the recent surveys that a majorityof the electorate thinks that Kerry can’t make up his mind.

But, I ask, what is so brilliant about sticking to one point ofview so fervently that no change, no recourse, no other politicalopinion can be considered? Isn’t this exactly the problem with theBush administration? Is it not the case that the president and hisVulcan-esque entourage are most guilty of not considering the otherpossibilities that may lead America into another future?

The Republican Party faithful are hoping that the undecidedvoters will forget the foraged truths that the Bush administrationdelivered to the people while launching them into this mystifyingwar. They are hoping that the undecided voters believe that Bush’sstrength is sticking to his guns, so to speak, and that they areunsafe without his convictions (regardless of the failures of theseconvictions).

They are hoping that evolving political ideas and ideals, whichJohn Kerry surely represents whether you agree with him or not, aredangerous in times of “terror.” Simply, what the Republicans hopethe undecided voters do not comprehend is that another future maybe possible-one built on political compromise, internationalrelationships and liberal interpretations of all the pathways thatmay lead us from this “monstrous abyss.”

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, wrote, “Themost successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assureuniformity but the one that removes the awareness of otherpossibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways areviable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.” TheRepublican National Committee hopes that the United States, thisweek, does not find those other possibilities.