Xenophobia: the Democrats’ closing argument
With Election Day fast approaching, Democrats have revealed their strategy for retaining the majority in Congress: xenophobia. For all their talk of being true cosmopolitans, President Obama and the Democrat campaign committees have hitched their success to talk of foreign influence in American elections and the belief that foreigners are somehow responsible for stealing American jobs.
President Obama would rather Americans forget he spent the better part of the last two years focused not on jobs or economic growth, but on expanding the powers of the federal government through Obamacare and his financial regulation bill. In fact, the president’s most popular argument for why Democrats deserve to be reelected is his unsubstantiated attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for accepting foreign donations. During a recent appearance, President Obama launched into an attack on the Chamber for supposedly using foreign contributions to “steal our elections.” He forgot to mention, however, that the Chamber’s budget is roughly $200 million while foreign contributions total about $300,000 — none of which is illegal, unethical, or even fattening.
One of the president’s closest advisors, David Axelrod, was asked to defend these baseless accusations on “Face the Nation.” Axelrod’s defense of the claims was met with disbelief by Bob Schieffer, who asked, “is that the best you can do?” Even liberal news institutions like the New York Times and Washington Post have responded by basically saying, “there’s no there there.” The Washington Post wrote in a recent editorial that, “The White House seems willing to stoke xenophobia without any evidence for its accusations.” It’s also interesting to point out the hypocritical nature of the president’s position on “foreign influence.” Labor unions like the AFL-CIO and SEIU have spent millions on electioneering in recent cycles and regularly receive dues from foreign members. Neither President Obama nor congressional Democrats have asked Big Labor to justify their accounting methods. It must be shocking for the international community to hear President Obama speak so negatively about them after all his promises to mend relationships.
In addition to the president, labor unions and Democratic operatives have been doing their best to smear Republican candidates with xenophobic charges. Democrat campaigns and their surrogates regularly claim Republicans are supportive of “tax credits that allow companies to ship jobs overseas.” The idea for this argument originated in a Democracy Corp memo by James Carville and Stan Greenberg entitled “October Surprise?” Democrats are basing this line of attack off of the decision of Republican candidates to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge, also known as the “No New Taxes” Pledge, was created over twenty years ago to promote President Reagan’s 1986 Tax Reform Act. It was specifically designed to protect individuals and businesses from income tax hikes while also promoting revenue-neutral tax reform. During this era of dissatisfaction with government, it’s not hard to imagine voters would be supportive of such a measure.
Yet, the DCCC’s strategy has been to attack and distort the pledge at every opportunity. As Americans for Tax Reform has repeatedly stated, the pledge does not protect any particular tax deduction or credit. Any deduction or credit can be removed as long as it is accompanied by a tax reduction of equal or greater value. This reduction can take two forms: either reduce marginal income tax rates or expand more favorable deductions or credits. A number of nonpartisan organizations such as the Associated Press and FactCheck.org have called these attacks false. FactCheck.org went as far as to condemn Democrats and call the attacks “blatantly false.” Democrat operatives want to stir up the fears of Americans worried about losing their jobs by associating anemic job growth in this country with some foreign plot to ship our workforce overseas.
Carville and Greenberg also encouraged operatives and candidates to tie Americans’ fears of unemployment to Republicans’ support of free trade. This is an interesting move considering the fact that President Obama and congressional Democrats have stalled the last three free trade agreements. The Obama administration has also provoked trade wars with partners like China by increasing tariffs on imported tires. The argument seems a bit fruitless as an economic issue considering it isn’t polling as a major concern this election cycle according to Gallup. It does, however, serve the purpose of fanning the flames of xenophobia if that is your only way to maintain the majority in this dismal economic climate.
Whether it’s attacks on organizations representing American small businesses, attacks on signers of a pledge to prevent tax hikes, or opposing opening up trade markets around the world to America’s goods, Democrats are desperate to spread fear among the electorate. Despite their best efforts, the range of competitive House and Senate seats continues to expand. Voters simply aren’t responding positively to these types of attacks. It’s no wonder Americans don’t trust politicians anymore. It’s sad to see a president and a party that campaigned on post-partisanship in 2008 doing their best to be as nasty and brutish as they can be in 2010.
Adam Radman is grassroots campaign manager at Americans for Tax Reform.