October 31, 2008

Republicanism 101: Learning it on the ground at Colorado

Posted in Malaysia at 2:41 pm by egalitaria

McCain-cum-Senator Schaffer Rally in Denver, Colorado.

Denver, Colorado. This is as ‘middle America’ as you can get, with brown, flat, wide spaces stretching on till the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Coming from Washington, DC, entering this city is a change of scenery. The city itself has about 590,000 residents. And a significant shift of political ideology as well, for me. DC is flagged blue all the way, with practically every analyst rooting for Obama in this year’s elections.

Here, the race has been closer. Colorado has not elected a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1992 (where it voted Clinton), although in the recent years its preference for the Democrats has been evident in its selection for Congress and Senate seats. As of 28th October, polls show Obama leading 50-44. The McCain campaign has hence needed to respond fiercely in the final throes of the fight.

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a local community Republican rally. I had expected it to be outdoors, like the Malaysian ceramahs, but it was in a warm hotel hall instead. About an estimated 400-500 people were present, an average age of about 45 years or older. Predominantly white, both males and females (but with one black lady running for State Senate). There were quite a few young people, although I suspect most were there because of their families. Nevertheless, those present were adamant about their beliefs.

Dylan and Becka, Young Republicans

Dylan and Becka, Young Republicans

I asked Dylan and Becka, two young Republicans, why they supported McCain although many of the young obviously were voting Obama this Elections. Their answer was that Obama was merely a showman without content, a good communicator. They believed in a limited government with greater individual freedoms for citizens to decide for themselves. They think mainstream media is too biased towards Obama and that Fox News is the only balanced news channel. I may disagree with them on some points, but I was generally impressed by their enthusiasm on political issues – they must have been about 18.

Boy scouts were called on to introduce the march pass the American flag, and the pledge of allegiance was read out followed by the national anthem.

McCain Supporters believe God is on their side

McCain Supporters believe God is on their side

There were several issues raised in the rally tonight that stood out. These points are obviously the same points being hammered all across the country. Although there are supposedly “50 Republican Parties in 50 States”, the national issues are standard:

  • Loyalty to God: There were several references to faith and religion, and a preacher himself spoke at the podium. “God will help us to do the righteous thing”.
  • National Security and Defence: A video was screened, showing military soldiers sacrificing their lives. “Let us put America back into a position of power”, “Obama wants open borders, We want closed borders”.
  • Individual Freedoms: Strong emphasis was placed on American citizens’ right to individual freedoms, alluding that “this country” was the only remaining country in the world with freedoms.

They did quite a bit of mudslinging as well, saying that:

  • The policies that Obama is proposing will not work in the long run, citing examples from Europe that have failed. I suppose they refer to social democratic structures resulting in large unemployment rates although these were not explicit (one may tend to differ in opinion on this as well, since I can think of several Scandinavian examples with effective results).
  • Obama was not willing to place his hand on his chest during the national pledge/anthem, hence branding him an anti-nationalist. (hence the lapel pin issue that emerged in August this year)

Although this was exactly what I had expected at a McCain rally, it was still a good exposure campaign. I was, however, disappointed that there were not more reasonable arguments made. For example, the worrying points raised repeatedly were extremely telling of the continued conservative worldview of the right-wing Christian populace supporting Republicans. In my humble opinion, it becomes a dangerous thing when God is used as free license to qualify every possible proposal by Republicans. By encouraging citizens to pray for the “righteous” outcome, it sounded like voting for Obama would be the “unrighteous” thing to do. Such blatant dichotomies can only be reflective of a narrow interpretation of faith and religion. This ties automatically all McCain – or Senator Schaffer who is running in Colorado – policies to God and anything opposite is not, apparently. As a Christian myself, I find this view unpalateable.

Also, I was disappointed with the myopic inability to see that America has to initiate conversations with the rest of the world instead of promoting “closed-borders” to improve its foreign relations. The speeches tonight assumed that the US should always begin from a position of power, an elevated vantage point. This may not necessarily be in the best interests of all other countries, including Malaysia. Some opening space of rational bilateral dialogue needs to begin, which Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in his briefing with us, thinks Obama will definitely do.

A Key Republican Issue

The Right to Own Guns: A Key Republican Issue

Finally, the Firearms Coalition of Colorado issued a Legislative Alert. The Right to own guns is a key Republican issue. The first sentence of the above brochure says “As gun owners, we all need to turn out and volunteer to work for the election of pro-gun candidates”.

This has been my introduction into heartland politics of America. It’s raw, it’s in your face. The paraphernalia of McCain, Schaffer, Palin and all other Republicans running for State Congress or Senate reminded me of the Pakatan Rakyat rallies back home. One major difference though, is how willing local, everyday citizens are in taking up office. The elderly Suzanne Andrews who is running for State Senate held my arm and told me, “I’m just a mom, I bake bread for my children, I’m no lawyer or anything like that, but my friends asked me to run and I did.” Her brochure says she protects traditional conservative values. And she is proud of it. Welcome to the Republican World.

Tomorrow, I meet with both the Democrat and Republican Campaign Headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Should be an eye opener. Hopefully I’ll hear less emotive arguments to support McCain.

4 Comments

  1. Lochos Vestu said,

    From some of your statements, you seem to imply your belief that if McCain becomes US President, he will not initiate bilateral talks with other countries in the world. I think this is a sorely mistaken view, as McCain has far more vast experience than Obama in foreign policy and has always been engaged with the world community. I agree with McCain, however, that no talks should be initiated with the likes of Iran and Syria, without preconditions, just as advocated by that phony called Obama.

  2. Lochos Vestu said,

    “Obama was not willing to place his hand on his chest during the national pledge/anthem, hence branding him an anti-nationalist. (hence the lapel pin issue that emerged in August this year)”

    I think if the same thing happened in Malaysia, say all the MPs in Parliament were to “berikrar” to pledge the Rukunegara, and you have all the MPs raising their right hands when pledging, just as every Malaysian school kid is thought to do, and you have this one MP guy standing out from everyone else by refusing to raise his right hand – that says something about how arrogant and rude this person is, how disrespectful the person is towards the country’s traditions and national practices. This is how Obama is, rude and disrespectful, believing himself to be above everyone and the country due to his messianic complex. I don’t think you should give leeway to Obama, because he is Obama, for the disrespectful and arrogant behavior he has shown. Please keep things in relation to Obama in perspective.

  3. Lochos Vestu said,

    “They think mainstream media is too biased towards Obama and that Fox News is the only balanced news channel. I may disagree with them on some points,”

    It is true that Fox News is the most unbiased this election season. Thank God that they too have the most US viewers. Fox News is pretty fair this season because Bush is leaving office, and they do not see a friend or ally in either McCain or Obama. Below is a Rasmussen survey of US citizens on media bias in favor of Obama
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/55_say_media_more_biased_this_year_in_campaign_coverage

    The conclusion is clear: Fox News is the most unbiased and fair this season, CNN and MSNBC are the most pro-Obama. This is not about whether there is a left-wing media or right-wing media. Even during the “Democratic” Primaries, MSNBC was so pro-Obama in their coverage and scathing, unfair and sexist in their coverage of Hillary Clinton.

    You need to remember that John McCain in actuality hates Bush. During the 2000 Republican primaries, John McCain fought with Bush for the Republican nomination. Bush then ran dirty campaign tactics against McCain by spreading lies that McCain had an illegitimate black daughter to voters in the South Carolina 2000 Republican primary. In actuality, McCain’s daughter, Bridget McCain, was adopted from a Bangladesh orphanage that McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, visited in 1991 with Mother Teresa during Cindy’s non-profit organization’s (American Voluntary Medical Team) trip to help out in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone.

  4. Steven Sim said,

    Great reporting there Trish!

    But just a point of comment, I think in terms of using god as a political tickets, the left MAY be as problematic as the right.

    Especially, these days, in Msia (and probably true in UK as well) we see the christians more often than not are aligning themselves to the “left”


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