Monday, August 23, 2004

How to Respond to RNC Protestors [?] 

I'm with Ezra Klein on this one, at least part of the way:
[T]hese protests have the potential to derail the Republicans or crash the Democrats, it all depends on how they're organized and how the media reports them. That I don't trust some of the suborganizations involved (Earth First) to stay peaceful and that I expect the media to report violence before reality only heightens my concerns. I'll be talking about this much more in the days to come as, I think, will a lot of us bloggers. I really think there's an off-chance that the election may be effectively decided in New York...
The closer the convention draws, and the more stories about rage-filled protestors I read, the more worried I get. Furthermore, I'm not really sure how the protests might "derail the Republicans." I find it unlikely that any sort of protest will dent GOP support besides, perhaps, a spectacle featuring 200,000 calm, sensible and mainstream-looking individuals silently marching down 8th Avenue each holding a single candle in the air. If there's one dumbass giant leering Bush effigy, one balaclava-clad bottle-thrower, or anyone who vaguely appears hippieish, that's who'll be on the news, and the net effect of the protests on GOP support will actually be positive.

A friend of mine who's actually (gasp!) considering taking part in the protests argued that there's an effect I'm overlooking: people overseas are likely to see a different version of events, and will be reassured to know that not all Americans support GW Bush. To which I say "They'll be more impressed if we don't re-elect him, and the protests are just going to make that goal tougher to reach."

Maybe I'm wrong: maybe I should be encouraging my friends and family to take part in the various marches and rallies, to serve as sober counterweights to the myopic, self-regarding street theater and violent-anarchist types. [Yeah, so I'm trafficking in prejudgments and stereotypes here. These are ideas out there in the ether waiting to be marshalled for the GOP cause.] But I suspect that the only function they'll end up serving is to inflate the crowd-size estimates, reinforcing the message that there are lots of nutsos out there.

My wife suggested a way for Kerry to counteract what I'm afraid is going to be a bunch of bad publicity: maybe Kerry should single out some heretofore obscure protest organizer for a pre-emptive "Sister Souljah" moment. Maybe it should be the scary guy from this Salon article. Such a gambit might also help inoculate Kerry from negative images from his days as a Vietnam protest leader. The script could be something like:

"Person X has pledged to do Y. Let me make myself perfectly clear: I repudiate these tactics and do not want the support of anyone who makes use of them. Our country and our people have withstood a series of blows, from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the deceptions and incompetence surrounding our involvement in Iraq. Our democracy has been weakened by underhanded campaigning impugning the valor of our veterans. Once again, as in Vietnam, our leaders have mishandled a military operation, and it is every citizen's right and duty to let the President know where we stand. But let us not further degrade our society by stooping to violence and lawbreaking, yadda yadda yadda."

Anyway, it's a thought. I don't expect it to happen, but perhaps it's worth considering. While you're thinking about it, you might want to re-read this Unfutz post in case you missed it last time I linked to it.

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