The old GOP con game of diverting voter attention away from issues

How ironic. Republicans, who won control of the House and Senate in 1994 by turning that year’s midterm elections into a national referendum on then-President Bill Clinton, now want to return to an "all politics is local" mantra to avoid getting tossed out on their asses because of President George W. Bush’s unpopularity.

Republican strategists say they will attack their Democratic opponents on local issues and work to avoid hot-button issues like Bush’s failed and unpopular Iraq war and his unrelenting attacks on the U.S. Constitution and freedoms that Americans used to enjoy.

"That’s the plan," says GOP pollster Bill McInturf, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies. "We will be advising our candidates to campaign on local issues."

That means telling any Republican candidate who wants to hold on to their seat in November to run as fast and hard as he or she can away from Bush and his failed Presidency.

Bush may end his Presidency as the most unpopular chief executives ever – surpassing other monumental failures like Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. His mounting list of blunders – from the lies-based Iraq war to his unconstitutional use of the National Security Agency to spy on Americans – are just two examples of the most corrupt, incompetent administration that I have witnessed in more than 40 years of covering Presidents as a journalist or working for them as a political operative.

And I’m not alone in that assessment. Public opinion polls show Bush’s approval rating below 40 percent and more than 60 percent of Americans think his Iraq was a monumental mistake.

"The national mood is like that of sweep elections," says pollster McInturff. "People are angry about Iraq, about gas prices, about health care."

So Republican incumbents will try to steer the political debate away from those pesky national issues and will talk, instead, about what they’ve done for their districts and states.

In politics, that’s called bringing home the bacon or "delivering the pork." It’s something politicians have done since the beginning of the Republic and also something that Republicans have turned into an art. After promising to bring an end to traditional pork barrel politics when they won control 12 years ago, the Republicans have taken it instead to a new level, passing ever-increasing transportation and infrastructure bills with record levels of fat for their home districts and loading down many bills with private favors for big-buck donors and the boys back home.

The current fiscal year 2007 appropriation for Health-Labor-HHS-Education includes some $500 million in "earmarks," which is political code for "pork."  The 1,712 projects feature pork spending and special favors for incumbents in 422 out of 435 House districts and doesn’t include additional pork added by Senators.

Democrats get some of the pork along with Republicans but since Republicans control Congress, and the committee chairmanships, the bulk of the $500 million goes into their districts.

"This is a game of politics over need," says Keith Ashdown, vice president for policy at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Polls show voters want a change in the leadership of Congress but polls have shown that before and voters have a nasty habit of thinking that Congress, as an institution, is corrupt while believing their Congressman is doing a good job because he or she brings the pork home to the district.

"America is a stupid country with stupid people," says comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. "This country is a pitiful, helpless giant."

Sadly, Maher may be right. The pathetic parade of rogues, scoundrels, con-artists and just plain crooks that inhabit the halls of Congress and the White House in recent years paint a pitiful picture of the American electorate and the political system.

And if Republicans succeed in their plan to steer voters away from George W. Bush and his many failures, they may also succeed in conning American voters one more time.


  1. Jim Riner

    Your article’s right on target. Voters need to wake up and realize what’s happening to our counry. And let me encourage you and your readers to check out another great article. Go to and read “Without Reservation” by retired LtCol Karen Kwiatkowski. She hits it dead on as to how this administration is attempting to play on fear and emotion in the upcoming elections.

  2. Michael Koy

    I also think Bill Maher may be right. If the majority of Americans is stupid enough to fall for the Republicans’ manipulative con games yet again, then this country deserves the government that it gets. Voters have little more than two months to wake up and change the direction we’re going in.

  3. I echo Mike Koy’s comments and would add that even the “Rant” has failed to recognize the con regarding gas prices that have dropped 40+ cents a gallon (at least here in the Northeast). Could it be that the VP and the energy bosses are truly in cahoots only now to remove the GOP from any identification with irresponsible gas prices for personal gain? Such as what has been rumored to be the reason for the year 2000 undisclosed agenda meeting between the VP and energy companies. I’ll bet the price will be even lower by election day!

  4. Blake

    Using propaganda via the MSM, Joseph Goebbels wannabe Karl Rove and the Republicans will beat us over the head with tales about what will happen to us if we don’t vote for them this November. It’s too bad most of the the CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and CNN watching automatons will quickly forget that it was the current Republican Congress in conjunction with the president that has led to the many problems we now face. From their decision to unanimously back the freedom destroying Patriot Act, huge tax cuts for the richest Americans, their decision to vote for the incomprehensible Iraq war, etc, Republicans deserve to go down in flames. However in two months Americans will probably be in such a media manipulated fear of the boogieman they will (no doubt helped with a little Diebold and ES & S vote rigging in key areas) help the Republicans retain control of Congress.
    Unfortunately, if this happens our government will soon be draining billons more from the treasury trying to make Iran safe for democracy and Americans wondering why they voted for these fools.

  5. ebbtide

    I have no doubt that the GOP will do “better than expected”. They are much better organized than the Dems–I think this is the result of the ’40 years out of power’ deal.

    Yes the public is stupid and the GOP has been talented at exploiting that ignorance.

    The Dems are still the lazy party. There’s no ‘fire in the belly’. Do any of you have the sense that Dems are ready to take back control? I don’t. I think this is because there are too many veterans around from the old days still. Their time has passed…

  6. Gee

    The Republicans will retain control of both the House and senate; they will steal the votes needed just like they did in the 2004 elections (google 2004 elections GAO) and read the GAO report.


    Remember the exit polling?
    The first time in my long life that exit polls were wrong; because they weren’t really wrong. What was wrong was the news madia coverage of the 2004 elections. And it will be the same for the 2006 elections.

  7. Shag

    Maher may be correct about most voters, at the least. Is’t amazing how people allow themselves to cowed by the fear game. All the while, their quality life is being ripped from under them. Amazing, just amazing.