Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's red meat season again

(Apologies for my absence from the blogosphere. I'll try to do better to keep up.)

Yes, boys and girls, it's that time again. With midterm elections coming, you can rest assured that Congress will be busy with very pressing national issues.

For example, President Bush has recently signed into law a bill that prevents homeowners' associations from placing restrictions on how the American flag is displayed. Here's the President's thoughts on the pressing need for this new Federal mandate:

"Americans have long flown our flag as an expression of their appreciation for our freedoms and their pride in our nation," Bush said in a statement. "As our brave men and women continue to fight to protect our country overseas, Congress has passed an important measure to protect our citizens right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions."

Of course, it's interesting when the champions of the free market are now telling private property owners what they can and cannot do with their property. Homeowners' associations are voluntary groups that try to keep a consistent neighborhood aesthetic value and increase the property value of everyone's home. Shocking how core conservative principles (limited government, private property rights, less government intrusion in people's lives) can be jettisoned so quickly when you wrap it in something popular like the flag.

Rest assured, a homeowners' association somewhere will file suit and have the statute declared unconstitutional after some guy puts up 86 flags in his front yard, complete with a laser show and a continual loop of "Stars and Stripes Forever." But there's a broader issue here. This homeowners' association bill is just the latest page in the Karl Rove playbook in an attempt to energize the far-right base for November '06. We've had the ant-gay-marriage Constitutional amendment, the anti-flag-burning Constitutional amendment, a proposal to "protect" the Pledge of Allegiance, and the stem cell research veto. All of these are custom designed to tug on the heartstrings of the far-right voters who mobilized so well in '00 and '04 and changed the outcomes of the elections.

What amazes me is that it still works. Never mind the fact that there are significant blocks of voters who believe gay marriage and flag burning are more important issues than the war, skyrocketing deficits, health care, and runaway corruption. Why would a person who believes in those priorities take this new batch of red-meat proposals seriously? Doesn't anyone remember how the President made gay marriage a huge campaign issue in '04, then forgot about it approximately 23 seconds after the election?

I suppose there is some merit in the argument that they aren't going to go anywhere else, and that at least their issues are being raised. But I would think by now they would realize that this is just another round of them being "energized" by all these red-meat proposals so they will go to the polls and vote. It is such transparent and cynical manipulation, and I would think those on the far right would be insulted by it.

I guess we'll see in November.

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