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May 11, 2004
NYT Indulges in Pointless Red/Blue Rhetoric

Rick Lyman writes an odd analysis for the New York Times this morning regarding the supposedly red-meat rhetoric that the two major candidates for President use when preaching to the choir. Lyman sets up his analysis based on the red/blue state paradigm, but then assigns Louisiana blue-state status when Bush carried it by 8 points in 2000 and leads by 14 points now. He seems to get closer by referring to Ohio as a red state, as Bush edged Gore there by 4 points, but only leads by 2 now. If Lyman's research is poor, the rest of his analysis is equally suspect, as he quotes the candidates and their supporters using pretty much the same rhetoric they use anywhere:

To applause and angry shouts, Mr. Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, told them not to be discouraged by Bush campaign efforts to paint him as an out-of-touch Northeast liberal. "You know why they're doing that?" he said. "Because he doesn't have a record to run away from."

Last Tuesday, in an aging ice hockey arena on Cincinnati's north side, a banner saying "America: Safer, Stronger, Better" hovered above the floodlighted stage, where a grinning President Bush scanned the crowd of more than 10,000 cheering Republicans.

"You've got to get out there and turn out the vote," Mr. Bush told them. "That's what we call the grass roots. I've come to fertilize the grass roots."

It is accepted wisdom that America is split nearly in half between red states and blue states, Republican and Democrat. But to get a taste of red and blue in their purest forms, it helps to attend a rally for each side and listen to each standard-bearer carry on a conversation with the converted. Only then does it become apparent how truly different these two Americas are, and how in other ways they are oddly alike.

Lyman quotes attendees extensively on the shortcomings of George Bush, even describing one how unhappy one Republican attendee in Baton Rouge has become with her party. We hear none of that from any of the Bush supporters quoted in the article; one could suppose that Bush supporters tend to be more polite and less classless, but I suspect that Lyman didn't want to include too many negatives about Kerry. This is an unusual choice, given Lyman's premise that one needs to go deep behind enemy lines, so to speak, in order to hear what each side really says about the other. He couldn't possibly have chosen less inflammatory quotes from the Bush rally, unless it were "Hi, how are you," and "Don't forget to vote!"

Lyman does include a bizarre incident without putting it into the broader context of the diversity issue of Kerry's campaign. He notes, more than once, that Kerry's audience is racially diverse, but in one instance shows how tone-deaf the campaign appears:

The dress code, for the most part, was blue jeans or canvas pants beneath union T-shirts or well-worn polo shirts. The crowd was a sturdy mix of black and white faces.

Billye Burns, a retired teacher from West Monroe, had driven more than two hours to see Mr. Kerry in Baton Rouge. Ms. Burns, who is black, sat at a prime table marked "white ticket holders only [emph mine]." White tickets, she explained, were for those who were active in the party.

Can you imagine the furor that would arise had the Bush campaign put signs on tables that read "white ticket holders only", regardless of the reason? In Louisiana? I'm no water-carrier for Affirmative Action, but this displays a stunning lack of historical sensitivity and has to result from an ignorance that suggests no locals were involved in the planning and staging of Kerry's rally.

Addendum: Perhaps this man headed their advance team in Baton Rouge? Hey, he's in town, and available -- it would explain the table signs ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2004 5:44 AM

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