With the presidential debates now behind us, the struggle for the White House will tilt even more toward decentralized media battles for electoral votes. Between now and Election Day, vast resources will go toward spinning local news coverage in swing states while launching carefully targeted commercials on radio and television.
For the Bush campaign and its allies, the media endgame will include these components:
* Smearing John Kerry
For months already, paid advertisements and interviews with pro-Bush operatives have portrayed Kerry as a betrayer of American troops in
In 1971, Kerry gained national prominence as an eloquent leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War because he expressed the thoughts and feelings of so many veterans. Today, the media attacks on his activism are efforts to sway voters by rewriting history, as though the Vietnam War amounted to some kind of noble undertaking instead of the illegal and immoral crime against humanity that it was.
The TV chain that owns more stations than any other firm in the country, the Republican-allied Sinclair Broadcast Group, has ordered its stations to preempt usual programming to air a 42-minute film, â€œStolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,â€ in late October. The movie is devoted to bashing Kerry for his antiwar activism. Conveniently, more than a dozen of Sinclairâ€™s stations are in pivotal swing states —
* Exploiting anti-gay prejudices
It has become a media truism that ballot measures against gay marriage in some states will boost the turnout of Bush voters. The Bush-Cheney â€™04 campaign has winked and nodded at virulent anti-gay bigotry on the ground.
Itâ€™s part of a dual-track strategy: While the Republican ticket avoids overt anti-gay comments, and Dick Cheney uses high-profile media venues to express personal support for his lesbian daughter, the GOP campaign is avidly working to gain votes by capitalizing on anti-gay prejudice.
* Inverting realities of class warfare
All four men on the major-party tickets are rich. But the positions taken — and constituencies represented — by Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards arenâ€™t the same. Typically, Bush has denounced the Democratsâ€™ call to raise taxes for Americans earning more than $200,000 a year.
To obscure their own ultra-elite loyalties, Bush and Cheney will keep trying to portray Kerry and Edwards as tools of wealthy trial lawyers and
* Making use of Ralph Naderâ€™s 2004 campaign
In a little-noticed GOP maneuver during the last days of the 2000 campaign, Republican forces poured money into commercials boosting Nader in some battleground states. This time, we can expect pro-Bush forces to do the same — but on a much larger scale.
â€œIn a pre-election twist,â€ the Associated Press reported on
The official Bush campaign of 2000 was glad to leave such Nader advertising endeavors to unofficial Republican allies. The Associated Press reported four years ago (on Nov. 4) that the Republican Leadership Council â€œran ads last week to help GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush. The ads were designed to induce Democrats to defect to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.â€ The executive director of the Republican Leadership Council, Mark Miller, said: â€œI donâ€™t think he [Bush] could have gotten away with it the way we did.â€
This year, Nader wasnâ€™t able to get an endorsement from the Green Party. But heâ€™ll be on the ballot in most states — including most swing states. And it would be surprising if Republicans donâ€™t flood the airwaves in many of those states with commercials featuring Nader in the final days of this election campaign.
Norman Solomon is co-author, with Reese Erlich, of â€œTarget