Tuesday, August 31, 2004
What impact will the protestors have on Bush and the GOP convention?
As the Republicans now take their turn to advertise their political message to the American people, one of the variables which could impact that message are the protestors who are expected to swarm host city New York in huge numbers.
The rest of the week should be an opportunity for Bush and his party to stay on script. The media filter which accompanies most of the news during the rest of the election cycle will be mostly irrelevant. Bush will have yet another opportunity to rise to the occasion in order to connect with an electorate which has yet to abandon him or dismiss the role he has played in the war on terror. Star speakers Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, and McCain might do wonders in changing some of the prevailing perceptions of Bush as a narrow ideologue or determined divider.
However, if there is one unavoidable and unscripted phenomenon which Bush can do almost nothing about - at least physically - it's the pictures of countless protestors massing on the streets of New York, serving as a reminder of Bush's seemingly controversial record as leader of the nation. No matter what Bush and his supporters have to say to the contrary, viewers will be reminded on a daily basis of just how much a lot of people can't stand what Bush has done as president.
Now, many observers, including many conservatives, tend to see this specter as one benefiting the president. Nude crazies holding up signs comparing Bush to Hitler, they say, is just what Republicans want people to see as the face of the opposition against him. There will be the anarchists and the communists. There will be the radicals and the punks. There will be the vocal and the malcontent. Par for the course when it comes to opposing a controversial conservative leader with controversial conservative policies (well, sort of).
Yet I think what Bush supporters should be mindful of is the extent to which mainstream opponents voice their outrage at the president. One legitimate criticism of Bush is his willingness to do alienate critics in pursuit of what he believes to be the right thing for the country. And many of these critics cannot be dismissed as the type who chain themselves to nail factories in protest of the threat their products pose to all things lumber.
Regardless of the merits of their criticisms, I believe that a cross-section of the American people possess a natural revulsion to the Bush agenda. So, when people watch the protests and the demonstrations and the vocal outrage they will inevitably be reminded that with Bush comes unrest, unease, gridlock, opposition, and a whole lot of noise. And one very important question people will be asking themselves when they watch all of this is: do we want another four years of this?
I think Bush and the GOP need to address this question, or they risk the prospect of the Trotskyites being overshadowed by the mourning vet mothers who question why their sons had to die - however much in the minority they may be. Their numbers may be small, their message may not be.
How does Bush overcome this? I think he does it by reclaiming the following message: America must endure. Otherwise, the noise of the protestors may drown out anything else he has to say.
Note: there is one other thing which could impact the convention and which Bush has no control over either: a terrorist attack. If that happens, all bets are off.