Diane Rehm show, 27 July 2006
Peter Wallsten, covers the White House for the "Los Angeles Times."
Tom Hamburger, an investigative reporter who covers the White House and executive branch for the "Los Angeles Times."
Diane Rehm: Voters in this country label themselves Republicans and Democrats in just about equal numbers. But you'd never know it by looking at who's in charge. A Republican is in the White House. The GOP controls both houses of Congress, [the Supreme Court], and a majority of the nation's governors. In a new book, political analysts, Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, detail the remarkably successful multi-decade Republican Party effort to gain dominance... You both write that the Republican Party has created a power structure that goes well beyond the fortunes of the particular candidate or even this particular president. How so, Tom?
Tom Hamburger: In our book we trace the efforts by the Republican Party and conservative leaders and the business community to rebuild from the ashes of the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964 a conservative movement that would not only undo the extraordinary advantages that the Democratic Party had in the 1960's when the Party was so dominant in all three branches of government, but one day would actually control all three branches of government. It was a remarkable dream in 1964 and we think it's been realized now in the 21st century.
Rehm: So it was a vision 50 years ago and now it has come into reality.
Peter Wallsten: Yes, and in fact, as we point out in "One Party Country," this has really be accelerated under the current administration of President George W. Bush, largely under the guidance of his political strategist, Karl Rove, and others such as Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman. They learned a lot of lessons from watching Democrats over the years, including in 2000 where Democrats did a remarkable job of getting voters to the polls. But what the Republicans and what the Bush-Rove-Mehlman machine realized after 2000 was that Republicans needed to do a better job. So they went back and studied what happened in the battleground states around the country, and they started looking at ways to harness new technology to really surpass the Democrats, which is what they have done. A big part of our book is looking at what has become knownas "the voter vault" -- a massive database of not only voter names, party registration, and where they stand on key issues, but massive amounts of marketing data that have helped the Republicans find new voters. Previously unaffiliated voters and voters who have traditionally voted Democratic.
Rehm: But, Tom, to what extent does that actually reflect a lack of effort on the part of Democrats?
Hamburger: Well, Diane, one of the things that we observed how the Republicans watched what the Democrats did what they were traditionally best at -- which was mobilizing their base and getting out the vote. In the years in which I've been a political reporter, and Peter as well, one of the truisms was if the voter turnout was greater, the Dems were going to win because the Democrats had the AFL-CIO, they had organized labor. They knew how to reach the masses. And indeed this was the case. There's a reason why that cliche is a cliche! It proved to be the case. What the Republicans learned to do was what the Democrats had done for so many years: find voters that agreed with them on specific issues and turn out that vote.
Rehm: But what about redrawing Congressional districts?
Wallsten: That's also a huge component of this plan. Back in the 1980's Congress passed a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act and it was signed by President Reagan. What it did was really encourage the creation of more minority districts, more districts that would elect African-American and Hispanic members of Congress which at the time seemed like a great goal for Democrats who were really pushing this rewrite of the Voting Rights Act. But Lee Atwater, the late Republican strategist and others -- Ben Ginzberg who's a lawyer now for the Republican Party -- spearheaded a campaign across the country where Republicans teamed up with civil rights groups and African-American leaders and realized that they could draw maps that elected more black members to Congress than Democrats were willing to do. As you take black voters and pack them into individual districts to guarantee the election of a black member of Congress, this left rings of more conservative, more white districts around that actually elected more Republicans. This contributed to redrawn maps that benefitted the Republican Party across the country.
Rehm:... I want to go back to that new technology you were talking about, Peter and that "voter vault." You said that Republicans were able to make use of marketing data. How did that figure into how they managed to get that voter information?
Wallsten: What they've done is they've amassed, over the past 6 years, marketing data from retailers, from automotive dealerships. They know what kind of car you drive. They might know what kind of toothpaste you purchase. They know what your favorite alcoholic beverage is. They've managed to come up with a system in which they use all of this marketing data to decide if somebody is more likely to be a conservative-minded person. Maybe they've voted Democratic in the past. But perhaps they would be open to very targetted appeals. Perhaps they're into fitness and they go to a certain gym.. It's a way to reach voters. One woman that Tom found in Ohio, suburban Ohio... She's an African-American woman who had voted Democratic for many, many years. She was identified by the Republican Party because she lived in a golfing community, she sent her children to a private school, and they realized there were certain issues that Republicans could bring to her. So she lives in suburban Ohio and she actually voted for Kerry in 2004. But she was besieged with appeals from the Republican Party and now tells us that she's open to voting Republican in the future. In long-term vision, that's a victory.
Hamburger: Diane, the Republican strategists and Democrats as well call this "microtargetting." It's the latest and sort of computer-enhanced niche-marketing -- think of it that way. Democrats also understand the power of this, but the Republicans we found in researching our book, "One Party Country," are ahead. Significantly ahead oaf the Democrats.
Rehm: How so?
Hamburger: I'll just jump back and explain how effective niche-marketing is in the case of Felicia Hill, the woman that we met in Ohio. African-American woman. Her husband is a UAW union member. Under normal traditional political circumstances, she would be a target for Democratic mailings. The Republican Party wouldn't waste the effort going after someone whose demographics would suggest she's a Democratic voter. What the voter vault told Republican strategists is that... she also sent her kinds to private schools. She was a golfer. She had, in the past, registered concern about abortion and was an active church-member. Suddenly Ms. Hill begins to receive very targetted appeals that speak to her concerns about sending her kids to private schools. She happens to be interested in vouchers. Suddenly there's a way for the Republican Party to communicate with her, to invite her to special events...
Rehm: ... A choreographed special communication...
Hamburger: Exactly. It's a niche message. It goes to Ms. Hill under the radar, direct mailings, personal phone calls. And in her case, visits. She told us the story, by the way that she had always voted Democratic in presidential elections past. But this time for the first time she felt welcomed by the Republican Party. She ended up voting for John Kerry last time. But next time? Who knows!
Rehm: ...It would seem to me that both parties would be able to take advantage of this kind of voter vault, same kind of marketing data, same kind of niche messaging. But the question becomes, who's got more money to do this kind of marketing?
Hamburger: It's money and organization. Democrats with organized labor had the lead in this for a long time. A guy named Steve Rosenthal who ran the Americans Coming Together organization pioneered some of this niche marketing for the left. What the Republicans did was to realize that if you're developing a database, if you keep it centralized, if you build it over time, and if you add depth such as the consumer data that's very expensive to buy -- but if you can add it, the power of your database grow exponentially. So what's happened is that the left has numerous databases many of which are competing with each other. The right have organized their database centrally and this gives them an advantage in this new kind of political marketing.
Rehm: So how was the Republican cause advanced during the presidency of George H.W. Bush?
Wallsten: For one thing, this redistricting occurred under that administration. Now that redistricting is done on the state and local level. But it was that Republican Party under Lee Atwater and others that realized that realized redistricting could happen. It was the Justice Department of George H.W. Bush that actually signed off on many of these maps.
Rehm: ... Here's our first email from Michael in San Antonio. He says, "This book confirms what I've been observing over the past few decades. It seems to me that politics is now being played as a sport where the goal is winner take all as opposed to serving the best interests of the electorate and the nation. I find it disturbing. I hope that by shedding light on the subject that the authors may help to bring the public to demand politicians that serve us not the interests of the political party." It's a good point. It is that it's not just the parties who are successful, it's the public that allows itself to be taken in this way.
Hamburger: Diane, I agree with that and understand the concern that our emailer is writing about. One thought that I'd mention in regard to this, our title, "One Party Country," which has caused us to take a big of ribbing from some of our friends who see this year as marking a Democratic surge, as indeed it may, is to explain that a bit. The one-party country idea represents a goal, a dream of the Republicans, out of power and gnashing their teeth since the era of Franklin Roosevelt. Gnashing their teeth over social security and the New Deal programs that seem to have become the third rail of national politics -- you couldn't even touch it even though philosophically conservatives were opposed to this kind of role for government. So it refers to the dream on the one hand; and on the other, it refers to the way in which the Bush administration, the George W. Bush administration which we concentrate on in this book, has chosen to govern. They have won, not by landslide majorities, not by Lyndon Johnson majorities, but by the narrowest of majorities. Using the kind of political techniques, the gamesmanship that your emailer referred to a moment ago, to achieve those narrow majorities. But though they won narrowly, they've governed as though they won by a landslide. They've obtained control of all three branches of government and in effect are governing as though this were, already, a one-party country.
Wallsten: One thing that Ken Mehlman told us when we interviewed him as we worked on this book was that if you really want to change government, have a transformational impact on government, because of the nature of technology today, because everyone -- voters and public -- are in touch with what's going on through internet sites, information they receive that's so specialized, people are going to be polarized. It's going to be a closely divided country no matter what. The only way to win with a landslide, they believe these days, is to basically have a bland message and to not transform the government. But they have an ideology. They have changes they want to make in government, this conservative movement. To do that they feel that they have to run campaigns very close to the margins. Winning 51% of the vote may be a close election, but it gives them the power to do what they want. They feel the elections will be close because both sides will be energized and polarized.
Rehm: Here's another email from Weldon here in Washington. He says, "I'm curious that so far Mr. Hamburger and Mr. Wallsten have not mentioned the allegations of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He's brought a lawsuit against a voting machine manufacturer as well as his allegations in a Rolling Stone article of massive disenfranchisement of Democratic voters. Did the authors, in their research, run across any examples of voter suppression, and do they see that as playing any role in the Republican strategy."
Wallsten: Our book is really about the science of winning elections, getting voters to the polls, and the power of ideas also as an important part of that. We didn't look at the allegations about voting machines. There certainly are a lot of allegations out there. We're not experts on that. But I can tell you this: the Republican Party has devoted millions and millions and millions of dollars and much effort in finding ways to appeal to voters and trying to get them to the polls. Obviously they feel they need people to show up and vote for their candidates. So that's an indication of something. We haven't seen any proof but we didn't really investigate that side of it. We have found, as we've begun talking about this book that Democratic voters specifically -- liberals -- are really consumed with these concerns.
Rehm: Very concerned about it. I hear about it all the time.
Wallsten: Tom had an interesting interaction the other day with an activist in Minnesota.
Hamburger: I was -- we do hear about this all the time. There are new books on the topic of stolen elections, there's the Kennedy article... -- we're certainly aware of those. The question was asked two days ago when I was at a forum with Jeffrey Blodgett who runs an organization called Wellstone Action. Blodgett was the former campaign manager for the late Paul Wellstone and is now running the most effect, we believe, organizations training young activists on the left. And training not just activists but young professionals, encouraging them to run for office, and teaching them some of the techniques that we argue -- and he obviously agrees -- that Republicans have become more adept at. But one of the things that he said in response to this question [about voting fraud] was first to acknowledge that this is a concern and that indeed in our nation at this point in our history there ought not to be doubt about votes and that they're cast fairly. We ought to be ratings internationally that are higher than those awarded to second and third world countries in our voting. But, he said, in 2004 the Republicans won that election. It's a distraction for Democrats to concentrate on the voter theft idea when in fact there are bigger concerns, some of which we enumerate in this book, the Democrats have to address if they're going to compete with Republicans.
Rehm: And one of those ideas is the example of ideas themselves! The Republicans have come up with a great number of ideas that apparently have appealed to people across the country. Have Democrats been able to do the same?
Hamburger: One of the things we chronicle in the book is a deliberate effort by Republicans to develop their intellectual heft, hone a clear ideology and find a way to express it.
Rehm: Sound bites!
Hamburger: So it's an appealing message for the American public. One example. I mentioned I was just in Minnesota. There's a Senate race there were the Democrat is running very strong and she is suggesting some modification for our current policies in Iraq -- perhaps considering a reduction of troops over time... this sort of thing. It's not the John Murtha position; it's quite moderate. She's already been slammed with the label "cut and runner." The Democrats, and this was very striking in 2004 which is the election campaign on which much of our book is based, had not come up with a coherent response to the current foreign policy fiasco.
Rehm: Is that due to the fact that you had the so-called "architect" of George Bush's policies, Karl Rove, in the White House... Is he the man behind these strategies?
Wallsten: Well, yes. Very much so! Karl Rove gave a speech to the Republican Party a few months ago where he laid out the idea that you paint the Democrats as a party with a pre-9/11 mentality. It's amazing to think how unpopular the war is right now and how President Bush's ratings are so low largely because of the war and yet how, as Tom mentioned, the Democrats don't have an answer to it. Not only that, but how the Republicans remain convinced that this is the issue that's going to help them win the election in 2006 and possibly 2008. This idea that voters just want to feel safe so even though there are questions about the President's leadership in the "war on terrorism" and Iraq, nevertheless, when the campaign is waged, and when the sound bites fly and the debates occur, the Republicans feel they come out on top and that they can easily paint the Democrats as weak. Interestingly, we saw this in the debate on NSA domestic spying. Again, many Republicans felt that debate worked out in their favor, even though there were questions raised about civil liberties and the fairness of that program, and even the legality of that program. Republicans did not mind having that debate out there.
Rehm: Is it that Democrats don't go far enough or long enough or strong enough or united enough in their counterarguments to the points Republicans make?
Wallsten: That could be. That's going to be a test in this election year. Look no further than Connecticut where Senator Lieberman is involved in a really tough primary because of his support for the war. Now we're going to see whether the Democratic electorate in that state decides he shouldn't be their party's nominee because of that. That would make a big statement leading up to the "08 election as to whether the Party wants to nominate an antiwar candidate or someone who has a more moderate view.
Rehm: But then how confusing is it to have former President Bill Clinton go up there in support of Joe Lieberman?
Wallsten: I suppose that is confusing but of course the former president's wife is a candidate for president and she herself has been a supporter of the war and it might be very important for her candidacy for the statement to be made that someone who supported the war could still have the support of the Democratic Party.
Hamburger: Diane, you asked a moment ago about the Democrats and their message and what they might ought to do to counter this, and it's not the purpose of our book to investigate. We didn't write it for Democrats or for Republicans, we wrote as journalists interested in what we thought was a remarkable phenomenon of the Republicans effectively stealing the Democrats' playbook. And we certainly do observe that the Republicans are more disciplined. They have a more coherent message. They also have an ideology which they have been willing to stick to over the decades. Even winning these elections by narrow margins, they're still approaching and embracing this ideological conservatism with great gusto. That stands in marked contrast to the Democrats who, as you just pointed out, have a very muddled message on all of the key issues of the day, even the ones where the Democrats are traditionally the strongest.
Rehm: And that's because they can't come together and say "This is the message." When Republicans, on the other hand, have a playbook with scripts written which I hear again and again.
Wallsten: Yes, that's right. One part of the book which is very enlightening about how this occurs -- there's one very important weekly gathering that happens, the Wednesday meeting, as it's called, which is led by a conservative activist named Grover Norquist. He has built an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. He really has corralled very different and often competing pieces of the conservative movement. ...There are tensions there and we can talk about that. But he has, over time, succeeded in bringing competing interests together to keep their eye on that long term vision of a lasting majority.
Rehm: Bring them together or honing a message and by sheer disclipline enforcing that they stay together?
Hamburger: It's both. One of the things that's interesting to us about Norquist's meetings is that it is a place to convey messages. It's also a place to air disagreements. But to do it in a private setting. We were able to get access to a number of these meetings, but the access is controlled and the arguments that take place behind the closed doors of the conservative movement don't generally get out to the public. This is a place, for example, when the Bush administration decided that it was politically advantageous to call for the expansion of Medicare to include a drug benefit, this is something that hardcore conservatives were really not interested in. It's expensive. It's expansion of FDR's [inaudible]. They were quite angry about it. But Karl Rove and others had a place to go where they could explain to the movement, in one room, why this is good for our long term agenda. Join us in this fight, or at least maintain your silence so we can get this through and have an electoral advantage.
Rehm: A call from Martin in McLean, VA:
Martin: ...I'm fascinated by the discussion partly because I can see them putting together... webbing this intricacy of Republican strategies which seem to be national and quite effective. I'm just going to give you a personal experience where, as a strong Democrat in northern VA, because I hold the "right" type of credit card and because I go to the "right" golf club and even maybe restaurants, I've actually received two wonderful photographs of the President with my name on it indicating that it was good for me to know that he's working hard for me. And this has always fascinated me. I keep it as a token of good marketing... The second thing is that if you go back to the National Journal, about 1999 and 2000, I think you'll find an article where Rosenthal is actually quoted as saying that if the Republicans think they can work the grass roots like us, they'll never do it -- they just can't make it happen. This marketing, this niche ability to hit single issues, coupled with outreach based on data mining is just the future. I think people need to be well aware of how they're being brought into the political process so that they can be a little wiser. That's all!
Rehm: Perfect example!
Hamburger: Well, that's to the point. We have found pieces of this anecdotal evidence around but it's kind of reassuring to the theme of the book to hear that story. Fascinating!
Rehm: But there's certainly more to it than that. Here's Rich, from Birmingham, AL.
Rich: Two quick questions. Demographic trends seem to aid the Democrats. A growth in the Hispanic population. A growth in the African-American community. 77 million baby boomers entering retirement age. I'd like to get your thoughts on that. And also, why do you think the two parties focus so much on divisive issues? Instead of issues that seem to me to be common ground issues, like fiscal responsibility, alternative energy sources? Why aren't they fighting to see who can be the most fiscally responsible? That way even the country wins...!
Wallsten: He mentioned Hispanic voters being Democratic. One of the legacies -- we talk a lot about this in the book -- of this president and frankly also his brother in Florida whom I covered for many years is a new outreach to Hispanic voters. There's a belief, and Karl Rove shares it, that Hispanics who have long voted overwhelmingly Democratic can vote Republican. One example was their outreach in the 2004 election, a targetted outreach. They send a 5 minute DVD to millions of Hispanic voters and that DVD included a scene of the President waving a Mexican flag.
Rehm: Here's an email from Victoria. She says, "What about the Republicans using phrases... that totally misrepresent the issues -- i.e., 'death tax, a tax that affects a very, very small group of very wealthy people, not middle class or even somewhat better off Americans. It's dishonest at best."
Hamburger: There is some of this -- what shall we call it? -- marketing and like a lot of marketing some of the slogans used are not reflecting the reality or even substance of some of these positions. The example we just talked about in the Minnesota Senate race and others where Democrats call for a change of course in Iraq and are dubbed "cut-and-runners" -- that's not the Democrats' position. The question is, do the Democrats have a well-honed response?
Hamburger: One of the things that we found, that we believe, is a result of doing the research for this book, is that the Republicans have not only come up with the soundbites that work, but there is behind it years of ideological and intellectual work to develop these positions -- and subsequently work on the area of linguistics -- to come up with phrases that work. It's not just phrases that work to promote Republican or conservative policies. "The ownership society," for example, as a way to describe privatizing Social Security. It also works because it undermines the Democrats. One of the things we think has happened over the past few years is that some of the words... even the word "liberal" with which the Democratic Party was so long associated has become a dirty word! Liberals won't use the word liberal.
Rehm: So. Are we in an Orwellian phase where language is used to be twisted to attack rather than to explain?
Wallsten: Isn't that the nature of politics? Part of politics is coming up with ways to sell your ideas. What we found is that now the Republicans are simply superior at selling their ideas. We've found a lot of frustration among Democrats and liberals about the Republicans' ability to sell these ideas. But, as you all just said, can Democrats come up with an answer? And certainly there are smart people in the Democratic Party who, no doubt, could. One of these phrases that points to the theme of the book is school vouchers that Republicans call "opportunity scholarships." This goes to the idea that this is one issue that we think maybe the Democrats have miscalculated, where they have opposed school vouchers, and Republicans have cast vouchers as opportunity scholarships mostly for poor African-American children in cities that do not have the best public schools. So this is one of several ways they've reached out to potential Republican voters in the black community.
Rehm: Here's another email from Iris, who's writing us from New York City. She says, "I have been receiving emails from the GOP at least three or four times a month even though I voted Democratic in 2004. I like some of the things I receive from the GOP and I wonder why I don't get anything from the Democrats. How do you explain this?"
Hamburger: Diane, your callers and correspondents are always amazing and in this case particularly interesting to us because it reinforces what we heard in our reporting across the country which is that the Republicans have simply moved ahead of the Democrats in this kind of niche marketing which we believe, now, is a very effective way to gain a political advantage.
Rehm: Doesn't marketing, after a period of time, lose its attractiveness?
Wallsten: Not if you're winning elections using it! This niche marketing we're talking about -- it shows itself in all forms. One example in the book is that the Republicans are so good at dividing up the electorate in such careful and, we think, such smart ways -- to look for ways to find new voters. Outside of Cleveland in 2004, they actually identified a community of Russian-speaking orthodox Jews. They went in and the rabbis actually ordered their congregants to vote, the men and the women. They had the yeshivas take the election day off so young girls could babysit and the moms could vote. They even had a rally entirely in Russian on the last weekend before the election where they brought in people on buses. By the end of the rally, everyone was standing up in the room and chanting Bush's name in thick Russian accents. This is the kind of marketing that has transformed politics.
Rehm: Let's go to Lincoln, Nebraska. Good morning, Austin.
Austin: Good morning, Diane. My question is regarding the alignment of the Christian Right with the popularity of the party. You mentioned earlier in the show the predominance of the Democratic Party at mid-century which I think largely has to do with the fact that Christian Right aligned itself before Roe v Wade with the Democratic Party. And now it seems, in recent years, the Christian Right is giving a lot more support to the Republican Party. I was wondering how that affects the popularity of the Party now, and how it will affect it in the future?
Hamburger: Your caller is bringing up a very important topic. It helps explain some of the realignment that's taking place across the country. There were a couple of popular books last year. One was "What's the Matter With Kansas?" and several others like it that actually speak to how the Republicans have taken states that have a strong populist or even Democratic tradition and are wooing voters to the Republican side, getting them to vote -- this is how Democrats argue it -- against their economic interests. A big part of the appeal is around moral issues, social values. Polling tells us that a huge part of this migration is the result of people of faith preferring the Republican Party, seeing it as a more appealing home. Cornell Belcher who's the official pollster for the Democratic National Committee was speaking to a new meeting of Democrats that we attended in which he described a poll out of Ohio which showed that seven out of ten regular churchgoers were now inclined to vote Republican.
Rehm: Is that because of issues like gay marriage and abortion?
Hamburger: In part because those wedge issues have been embraced and used very deliberately by the Republicans. Gay marriage is a terrific example, we believe, but we also think that it goes deeper than that. The Republicans have been able to suggest that the Democratic Party is a party of the "elite," that it no longer represents the interests of middle America, and that if you're concerned about even the issue of abortion, Republicans have tagged Democrats as being the party of abortion-on-demand -- that's how they describe it.
Rehm: But you know, what the two of you are sort of implying is that people are no longer thinking. They're no longer thinking hard. They have been taken in by these kinds of marketing messages, these kinds of shifts. We are individuals. We are voters. We are thinking people. What's happened to us?!
Hamburger: I think that's a great question, and part of the responsibility does indeed lie with the American public -- what we are willing to settle for in political discourse. But I must say, as we observe the debate -- go back to the debate over Iraq and US foreign policy in the 2004 election -- there was a choice offered. Americans paying attention were able to choose between what President Bush said... and can you tell me what the Democratic Party position was? What was John Kerry standing for in the case of our policy in Iraq?
Rehm: I think we have an interesting question here from Bedford, OH. Gerry?
Gerry: ...What I'd like to know is, since Karl Rove is a federal employee, are we in essence using taxpayer money, facilities, supplies for partisan political reasons?
Rehm: You know, it's a good question. Since Josh Bolten became the President's chief advisor, you now have Karl Rove moved into this position of Republican strategist. Is the taxpayer paying for a position that literally is one of strategizing as opposed to something that ought to be outside the White House?
Wallsten: Well, politics is nothing new at this level. Every White House has somebody who has worried about elections because in their minds you have to win elections in order to pursue your agenda. But this actually raises an interesting point. In the book we think about the use of government in the service of the conservative cause and in the service of winning elections. And there are a couple of interesting points here. A good example is the White House "faith-based initiative." We were speaking of faith earlier. This is, I guess, a use of taxpayer dollars. This President wants more of those taxpayer dollars going to faith-based services rather than government social service organizations. This is an ideological view he has, but it also has a political benefit because it results in money being sent to churches. Specifically, many of them are African-American churches where the ministers have turned around and supported the President's reelection and have supported Republican candidates. So it's a use of taxpayer dollars, yes. And it serves a political purpose. And we have seen in this administration an increased politicization of the middle level of government agencies as well -- again, keeping in mind, helping Republicans win elections at state and local levels.
Rehm: Here's Lana in Kensington, MD.
Lana: I wonder if they've found any evidence of targetting the elderly with scare tactics. The reason that I'm asking that is because my mother, who lived in Florida after the 2000 election, was coming down with Alzheimer's. We had to move her into a facility. When we went through her apartment, we threw out over ten bags, trash bags, of marketing with scare tactics about losing Medicare from the Republican Party. One in particular really bothered me. On the front of the envelope -- and on the top of it -- it said "SUBPOENA." It wasn't a subpoena. It was signed by Dick Armey. I've been livid about that since. I've had no way to express it and I appreciate your show for giving me a chance!
Rehm: Have you all come across anything in Republican literature, in their marketing that, as Lana says, looks like scare tactics?
Hamburger: I hadn't heard about the "subpoena" mailing before. We have seen over-the-top mailings from the Republicans. We've seen some from Democrats as well.
Rehm: "Over the top"?
Hamburger: There's an example when Congressman Chet Edwards was running for reelection, a very close race in Texas. He's a Democrat who represents Crawford where President Bush lives. There was a very strong GOP effort to defeat Edwards who's a very religious guy but who has opposed aspects of the faith-based initiative that he thinks may cross the constitutional line. There was a mailing he showed us that was sent out in his district by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee that showed pictures of soldiers in Iraq. It said "Congressman Edwards doesn't want our soldiers to be able to pray"... wants to restrict their ability to express themselves religiously. Edwards objected. But I wanted to get to your caller's point about scare tactics -- Social Security, Medicare, entitlement programs. Democrats also have pushed the scare button on Social Security. As the Republicans have offered a proposal to deal with Social Security's fiscal problems, Democrats have suggested that Republicans are out to destroy it. There is a substantive argument to be waged here. But one of the things that we argue, and we get into a bit in the book, Republicans deserve credit for at least coming up with a proposal. It's substantive, it's something that one can intellectually take apart. The Democrats don't have a clear counter- proposal on the table yet to deal with the Social Security fiscal crisis.
Lana: ...I also wanted to say that my father was the CBS news director of KHAU-TV and trained Dan Rather. That's why I so appreciate your show because I was raised in a house where journalism was respected. There's so much bias in this country now. It's so nice to hear a show which is informative and not biased.
Rehm: Thank you for calling. Mark in San Antonio, TX:
Mark: We're talking about marginalizing middle and lower-income America. What can people do -- and this might be a topic for a whole show! -- what can people do to help these people wake up to the fact that they have been fooled?
Rehm: Well, these two people have written a book and I'm sure they're going to try their best, as they travel the country. Any other ideas?
Wallsten: A lot of people have asked us if there are any flaws in the strategy the Republicans have, if there's any hope for Democrats. Couple of interesting issues that have pointed to tensions within the conservative movement. Immigration. Social Security. There are issues where they've had a more difficult time navigating the competing interests of parts of the Republican base. Corporate interests on one side. The social conservatives on the other. Certainly in the case of immigration. So that points to challenges ahead for the conservative coalition. Whether they can actually build the majority they have now and keep it going over the next few election cycles.
Rehm: And also, it would seem, in the 2006 election, "cut and run" is going to be an issue. In other words, policy on Iraq.