51% of the people, all of the time

People joke that the Bush Administration has been using Lincoln’s quip as their game plan, but the joke isn’t very funny any more.

It’s starting to look as if the Bush strategists are planning to win re-election by targeting two groups only: the fanatics of the Republican core constituency, and the people who aren’t really paying attention.

A majority of Americans still believe that Saddam had MWD, actively supported al Qaeda, and was probably involved in 9/11. No evidence for any of this has surfaced.

The attacks on Kerry’s supposed “anti-defense” votes don’t hold water either — Rumsfeld and Cheney held similiar views at various times in the past. As Republicans say about everything else but defense, “You can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it”, and some weapons systems just aren’t needed. (The one person people really should be looking at in this regard is Rumsfeld, who sent an undermanned and underequipped army to Iraq).

The flap about Kerry’s service records is even worse. The best you can say about Bush’s military performance is that he served stateside and got permission to leave the service early with an honorable discharge. (This is the absolute minimum standard of acceptable military service). The worst you can say about Kerry is that he was a decorated combat veteran who got permission to leave the service early with an honorable discharge.

Kerry comes out far ahead by all non-pacifist standards, and people have asked why the Bush people are even raising the issue. The answer is that they are targetting people who aren’t really paying attention — airhead centrist whim voters who vote on the basis of buzz.

“Well, there were questions about Bush’s military service, and there were questions about Kerry’s service too, so basically it’s a wash”. That sounds shrewd and maybe even wise, right? Nobody’s going to fool this guy! He doesn’t even have to read the articles to figure out what’s going on!

I blame the drug culture. During the Sixties a lot of people came to believe that they could get the real truth by intuiting vibes and reading auras, and that nit-picky left-brain attention to fact and detail is useless, if not harmful. Some of those people are still around today, and they seem to have had kids.

The present Bush campaign can only succeed if it gets active collaboration from the media. The most routine professional, fact-based coverage of the Bush campaign would blow it completely out of the water. But for whatever reason, even some non-partisan journalists have accepted a definition of “neutrality” which (like the worst forms of affirmative action that the Republicans rail against) requires equality of outcome. If, on a particular issue, the Bush people lie and the Kerry people tell the truth, the media will not tell us about it. (What they actually do is really worse than simply fake neutrality, of course — most what we see about the election in the media is paid advertising for which ultimately do not take any responsibility at all.)

The possibility that Bush might be reelected to an irresponsible lame-duck term without the support of any well-informed voters at all is terrifyng. To me that sounds like a carte blanche to run wild and trash the place worse than he has already.

As always, I end up making a plea to people who never come to my site: the libertarians and the semi-mythical rational conservatives and moderate Republicans. None of them really have any reason to support Bush (key words: Patriot Act, little government, fiscal responsibility, and “sliming John McCain”). But it’s possible that many of them will do so anyway, saying “At least he’s not a Democrat!” Even the ones who don’t vote for Bush will probably just slink down to the polling place and take advantage of the secret ballot.

I’m really hoping that a few of the big names will stand up in the last few weeks of the campaign and announce publicly that they’re voting for Kerry. If they don’t, the consequences could be appalling.

(No, I don’t think that the Democrats will be able to pull it off on their own.)