Right Wing Bickers over Voter Turnout

Anticipating a Republican loss in November, right-wing activists are already trying to establish who to blame. James Dobson, who cast aside his stated disillusionment with the GOP to commit to working to maintain its majority, has suggested that liberals or the liberal media are using bad news to “suppress” the turnout of those he calls “values voters,” but his comrade Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is blaming conservative media.

Yesterday, an article in the right-wing Washington Times, owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and much more bullish on GOP prospects than other outlets, warned that conservative voters were “disillusioned” and right-wing appeals are sounding more desperate:

The Republican Party can stave off defeat with a strong turnout on Nov. 7, party leaders are telling the faithful — but they are finding it tough to sell that message to some disillusioned conservative voters.

“The message hasn’t gotten across because a lot of people are sick and tired of thinking the only reason for going to the polls is to vote for the Republicans because they are lesser of two evils,” said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council (FRC), a leading social conservative group.

“Conservatives aren’t motivated to come out, is what I’m finding,” said conservative campaign consultant Rick Shaftan, who is based in Sparta, N.J. “They see no reason to re-elect the people who are in office.”

In an e-mail to supporters, Perkins singled out the Washington Times article as being designed to “discourage voter turnout”:

Story after story on the elections seem to repeat the same spin–that conservatives are too turned off to turn out the vote. With headlines like “Conservative Voters Likely to Stay Home,” many of the press seem to be hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the truth is, these articles aren’t intended to get the facts straight or to talk about the broader cultural issues of moral decline that have given rise to the recent scandals. They’re meant to discourage voter turnout–plain and simple.

Meanwhile, in today’s Washington Times, other right-wing leaders fired back, promising that the “base” would come out. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist called them “whiners”:

Top Republican Party supporters yesterday accused fellow conservatives of “whining” in response to complaints from activists worried that grass-roots Republican voters are disillusioned and will stay home on Nov. 7.

Grover Norquist, a close associate of White House political strategist Karl Rove, dismissed concerns about voter turnout as empty threats. “There are always in every election cycle self-appointed conservative leaders who announce, ‘You haven’t done enough for me, so my troops are staying home,’ ” Mr. Norquist said. “The National Rifle Association, Americans for Tax Reform, the [National] Right to Life Committee — the groups that actually put lead on the target and who do stuff all the time, they’re not unhappy,” Mr. Norquist said. “The people who are whining are the guys that don’t have grass roots that they can actually move. So they are frustrated, and they don’t have anything to do other than threaten not to participate.”

And Norquist also dismissed Perkins explanation that the Foley scandal is responsible for turning off his constituency:

Over the summer, Congress held a rush of votes on just those issues — an election-year ritual intended to motivate those voters — and in an interview last week Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative Family Research Council, said he believed it had begun to revive some grass-roots enthusiasm. “But the Foley scandal just let the air out of the tires,” Mr. Perkins said.

Others dismissed the Foley scandal as largely irrelevant outside of Mr. Foley’s district. Several conservatives said Republican incumbents were using it as a scapegoat. “It will make you feel better to say, I didn’t lose the election; Foley lost it for me,” said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Your wife and kids will believe it.”

As David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, told the New York Times, “It is one of those rare defeats that will have many fathers. And they will all be somebody else.”