Like bugs to light, Republicans are attracted to 9/11 fear mongering, and with the flap over the proposed mosque and community center two blocks from Ground Zero, the man in charge of the GOP’s efforts to retake the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn suggested that the GOP is ready to make 9/11 an issue again this November, but by playing the politics of fear, the GOP could ensure failure in November.
According to The Hill, Cornyn all but came out and said that the GOP plans to make the “Ground Zero” mosque an issue in the 2010 midterm elections. He called Obama’s mosque comments out of touch, “It demonstrates that Washington, the White House, the administration, the president himself, seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America. I think that’s one of the reasons why people are so frustrated. “This is not about freedom of religion. I do think it’s unwise to build a mosque in the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack.” He claimed that this proves that Democrats aren’t listening to the people and that, “The American people will render their verdict.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) continued to nationalize the issue, and repeated the GOP talking point that Obama is out of touch on the mosque, “What I am saying, though, is that they should listen to public opinion, they should listen to the deep wounds and anguish that this is causing to so many good people. And if the imam and the Muslim leadership in that community is so intent on building bridges, then they should voluntarily move the mosque away from ground zero and move it whether it’s uptown or somewhere else, but move it away from that area, the same as the pope directed the Carmelite nuns to move a convent away from Auschwitz. This is such a raw wound and they are just pouring salt into it. And that’s my point.”
Republicans just can’t resist. They nostalgically look back on the heady days of 2002 and 2004 when the politics of post-9/11 fear made the GOP unbeatable, and dreams of majority that would last for thirty years were being openly discussed. However the cracks in the 9/11 strategy were already starting to show in 2004, and when the GOP ran a national campaign based 9/11 fear in 2006 and 2008, they overwhelmingly lost. Now with an anti-incumbent landscape in 2010, Republicans are once again optimistic that this is their year, but if they insist on running on 9/11 and fear of Muslims again, it won’t be.
Republicans seem determined to run a national campaign against Obama, the Ground Zero Mosque, healthcare reform, and everything else they can think of, except the economy. The economy is the issue that is fueling voter anger, none of these other issues matter much to the nation at large. Instead of trying to duplicate 1994, or 2002, or 2004, Republicans need to realize that this is 2010, and the political climate and issues are different.
The biggest change in climate that the GOP is facing is a lack of funds. It is one of the most poorly kept secrets in politics that the RNC is broke. As The Daily Caller reported last month, “One GOP operative with deep connections into the world of Republican finance claimed the RNC was “basically broke.” Another operative called the RNC’s “cash on hand” figure — $12.6 million in its June 20 filing – “pure fiction” and said the discrepancy is a “badly kept secret” in Republican circles.”
Politico reported on August 6 that the Republican cash crunch is so acute that it could prevent them from taking back the House. In 2006 the RNC gave $57 million to the House and Senate campaign committees. This year the RNC has had to tap into a line of credit and has only given $2 million to each of the committee. The RNC will only be able to assist in targeted House races, and will provide virtually nothing to non-congressional contests. Republicans have to hope that 527 groups can make up the cash difference, or else they can forget about having a big November.
Having the incumbent president in their party means that the DNC faces none of the financial woes of their GOP counterparts, which is why it is critical that Republicans must come to voters with the right message this fall. If the GOP decides to nationalize the Ground Zero Mosque issue, and it doesn’t resonate with voters, which it won’t outside of NYC, Republicans will have spent part of their valuable limited resources on a message that won’t help at the polls.
Democrats will be absolutely giddy if the Republican message is about 9/11, mosques, and healthcare, because they intend to campaign on fixing the economy. The Republican Party has become so myopic and homogeneous they have become the party that is out of step with America, not the Democrats. While the Ground Zero Mosque plays well with the base, most people would rather have a job than be reminded of 9/11.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association