Mudslinging Hurts the Republican Brand

![Calling liberals anti-American won’t help Republicans like Rep. Michele Bachmann (Ron Edmonds/The Associated Press)](/content/uploads/Bachmann.jpg)
Calling liberals anti-American won’t help Republicans like Rep. Michele Bachmann (Ron Edmonds/The Associated Press)
It’s October of an election year, and we all know what that means: the nastiness of campaigns across the country will reach new heights as politicians try to defame their opponents one last time before Election Tuesday.

The GOP has been using one particular line of attack: liberals (and Barack Obama) are anti-American. To this I raise my eyebrows, don by finest incredulous grin and ask, “Huh?”

It’s one thing to disagree with the left’s stance on taxes, the war or social issues—to call them anti-American takes it to a new, hyperbolic level that is insulting to all those who favor intelligent discourse.

I differ with liberals on a number of issues, but let’s get a few things straight. Wanting to end the War in Iraq is not unpatriotic. Raising taxes is not unpatriotic. Favoring progressive social policies is not unpatriotic. Many in the middle and on the right might consider them wrong, and that’s fine—disagreement is the backbone of our political system. But so is debate, and throwing a wet blanket on our country’s liberals and labeling them as anti-American negates that.

And yet, some Republican lawmakers can’t grasp this basic idea.

Let’s look at the loudest mouth of them all: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Bachmann appeared on Hardball on October 17th and promptly proclaimed the following: Obama “may have anti-American views”; Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and all other liberals may be “anti-American;” and that there should be a McCarthy-esque “exposé” of members of Congress who harbor such liberal…err, anti-American beliefs.
Bachmann was trying to bring up one of 2008’s classic talking points: Obama’s patriotism is questionable because of his associations with Jeremiah Wright. But then she couldn’t help herself, and her true feelings about her co-workers came out.

Needless to say, commentators on both sides of the aisle went berserk over her interview, and she’s been repenting ever since. Except she’s not doing a particularly good job: on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show five days later, she once again said, “Barack Obama’s views are against America.”

Inanity loves company, and so on the same day, Representative Robin Hayes of North Carolina joined Bachmann in the intolerance arena. Hayes introduced John McCain at a rally in his state (a toss-up in the general election) by saying, “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”

In the end, the joke is on Bachmann and Hayes. Both faced adequate Democratic challengers this year, but the incumbents were expected to hold onto their seats. No longer. Since Bachmann’s initial comments, her challenger El Tinklenberg has raised over one million dollars (a huge amount for a House race, especially in such a short period of time) and the NRCC has withdrawn its media buy from her district. Hayes has it worse: his race was nearly a tossup if not leaning red before his comments. But just a day later, he was placed on the GOP’s “death list.”

Of course, the most scrutinized quote came from the party’s new standard-bearer Sarah Palin. A day before Bachmann made her remarks, Palin told a Greensboro crowd, “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, pro-America areas of this great nation.”

With due respect to the governor, I grew up in New York City, the antithesis of a “small town.” I watched the smoke billow on 9/11 and went to high school two blocks from Ground Zero. No one who saw the way the city responded to that tragedy would dare infer that it was less American than any other part of this country.

The real America is the dichotomy between the small towns and the big cities or between the farmers and the bankers, or, yes, between the views of liberals and conservatives. Our heterogeneity makes us great. Our susceptibility to slandering those who disagree with us makes us weak.

These are important times and the stakes have rarely been higher. Each side has a different way of handling the litany of unsolved problems we face, and they will pull out all the stops to win. But there is a line between savvy campaigning and nastiness—one that voters recognize.

Conservatives label Obama and his peers as elitist, and perhaps they are. But this moralist, holier-than-thou attitude that so many in Republican circles have adopted and taken to an extreme is one of the direct contributing factors to what is shaping up to be a widespread GOP massacre.

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