Republicans Double Down on Rovian Strategy

Reflecting on the RNC festivities so far, it seems clear that the Republicans really don’t care about trying to attract the moderate voters and the undecided. Virtually none of what we’ve seen in their convention so far has had any appeal for those who are not already wholly committed to the Republican agenda.

The left, including me, marvelled at the Republicans’ motivate-the-base strategy back in 2004, thinking it couldn’t possibly work (since the red meat that fires up the Republican base is going to alienate many of the middleground voters, as well as angering the opposition and enhancing the opposition’s motivation), but it did work. I can’t see how it can work in 2008 given the huge shifts in party ID since 2004 — the Republicans’ base is substantially smaller than it was in 2004, and thus they need the “moderate” voters more than ever.

I have never understood the way the Republicans use 2nd-order symbols at their convention to mock the opposition — those symbols always seemed to me to be confusing to those not in on the stories behind them, and infuriating to those who knew what they represented. The chief example of this in 2004 was the purple band aids (which for the party faithful was a reference to the scurrilous Swift Boat charges that John Kerry had not actually earned his purple hearts). The new example is the chant of “Zero! Zero! Zero!” How can that do anything but alienate those who don’t live in the weird universe in which 11 years of legislative experience in a large state and the US Senate count for nothing against 8 years running a small town and 19 months running the 47th largest state in the Union?

I really thought that the Palin choice was designed not just to energize the base, but also to attract the moderates (especially women) — a gender-based choice (as this obviously was) makes no sense otherwise when the nominee is so manifestly green on the national stage. But they aren’t following through on the appeal to the middle at all — they seem completely uninterested in seriously courting anyone but the already-converted.

I can’t see how they can gain any bounce out of this convention at all. And I can’t see how it will do anything other than make for a really nasty campaign season.