Thursday, July 16, 2009

Krusty vs. Deeth

Issue Stance vs. Issue Emphasis, or, Krusty vs. Deeth

My spelling is notorious enough that back in college, I made it to speech nationals making jokes about it. Every New Year, my resolution is to spell-check before I hit publish; every morning I'm in such a hurry to share my brain dropopings that look, there, I just did it again.

Krusty, now part of the Iowa Republican team, is bemused by my spelling, but takes issue with my analysis of IR's poll. I'm even worth a cute Photoshop of me and the Big Lug. The poll numbers show a big Bob Vander Plaats lead over his GOP rivals; I celebrate (too soon, chides desmoinesdem)

"I understand that Democrats like Deeth don’t think it’s fair to have to defend Culver at every turn," writes Krusty, "but now it’s your turn to defend an unpopular elected official who refuses to deal with issues head on."

So let's try that analysis again.

My parents visited me this past weekend. They're from Wisconsin, not Iowa, but they perfectly capture the mindset of the vanishing moderate, the swing voter that can be persuaded by either side. They're my reality check: every-election voters but not political activists.

"I don't like the extremists on either side," says Dad. "I don't like people why can't try to see the other side." For a long time he meant me when he said that, but not any more. "I like to look for the middle ground," he said this weekend, "and right now that's with the Democrats." (Aside: Palin was a deal-breaker for Dad last year: "I hope he (Obama) can do the job, but I KNOW she can't.")

We weren't discussing the Iowa governor's race per se, but the principle applies. Argue as you will about the policy details, but Chet Culver is engaging the issues and priorities that people like my parents care about: jobs and the economy.

Vander Plaats, on the other hand tells the Press-Citizen: "I'm betting my whole campaign on that executive order" overturning Varnum v. Brien and marriage equality.

Perhaps a slim majority of Iowans still oppose marriage equality, though the pendulum is swinging fast. And perhaps some folks agree with BVP's legal reasoning, though virtually no legal scholars see it that way.

But the question is BVP's emphasis on Teh Gay to the exclusion of other issues. Even if a narrow and shrinking majority agree with him on the underlying issue (if not the legal reasoning), very, VERY few agree that it should be the governor's number one priority.

Yet virtually all of the people who see reversing marriage equality as the state's number one issue will be GOP primary voters. Which is why Vander Plaats can win a primary with Teh Gay, yet alienate moderates, even if they agree with him, by overdoing it in the general. The culture war politics of the 1968 Nixon-Wallace-Reagan alignment collapsed in 2006 and 2008, and Republicans will have to engage a more pragmatic set of issues if they hope to make a comeback.

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