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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bad Day for the Base

Boy, if the President’s re-election really does depend on an excited conservative base, today’s news is not very helpful to The Cause. You got Dick Cheney dissing Bush’s position on a gay marriage amendment, at considerable length, perhaps subtly undermining the Right’s claim that Western Civilization hangs in the balance. You got Bill Frist, once on the conservative short list for the succession to Bush, co-authoring an op-ed on health care with Hillary Rodham Clinton. And you got conservative pundit and author of Bush’s famous “Axis of Evil” sound-bite, David Frum, advising pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Mayor Rudy Guiliani on how to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 (sorry, no link here; it’s in the subscription-only Wall Street Journal).
The Cheney statement appears to have taken culture-warriors by surprise. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins (no relation to the star of “Psycho”) was reduced to whining about the Vice President’s lack of message discipline, which is rather disturbing given Cheney’s stature as the administration’s Great Big Grownup. And the Veep sure stepped all over the Republican Platform Committee’s decision to enthusiastically endorse the idea, if not the ontological necessity, of a constitutional gay marriage ban.
I decided not to include today’s other big story–the blue-ribbon panel report drawing a direct link between the Pentagon’s poor post-war planning and the prisoner abuses at Al Ghraib–in the litany of base-deflating developments. That’s because my unscientific sampling of rank-and-file conservative opinion, particularly in my own extended family, has convinced me that a fair number of people on the Right think torturing and humiliating prisoners is on balance not that bad an idea, so long as we don’t let the womenfolk get involved.

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