On One Hand

August 23, 2007

Rumers on the Internets

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:35 am
Tags: , ,

Move over Bill Clinton, it’s time we had a real playboy in office.

I’m talking about former NYC mayor and Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who is leading the Republican polls handily in his race to become the Republican presidential nominee.

Democratic pundits hope – and many Republicans strongly suspect – that Giuliani’s support among conservatives has simply to do with the fact that most people haven’t heard much about him yet. Voters know Giuliani was on the cover of TIME just after 9/11 standing above the smoking World Trade Center ruins, and that he presided over America’s city when it truly was, for a while, the center of the world. They haven’t really thought about things like, say, the fact that just three years ago Giuliani divorced his second wife to marry his mistress, that his wife found out her husband was leaving her by watching Giuliani’s press conference about it on TV, or that Giuliani’s own grown children are supporting Democrat Barack Obama.

The fact that Giuliani is ahead in the GOP race is surprising. Democrats are worried, because in a general election, Giuliani would be a tough contender against any opponent. His image is of being very strong on terrorism, which is a hot-button issue now as always, and he is liberal enough on social issues to win moderate credentials overall. He would be the first pro-gay Republican president ever, the first pro-choice Republican president since Richard Nixon, the first Catholic president since beloved Democrat John F. Kennedy, and the first Italian president ever.

As a socially-liberal Republican, Giuliani’s natural supporter is the erudite, rich and well-traveled Republican male, who is willing to look past social issues for economic ones, and doesn’t peer into others’ personal lives. But his current supporter is more of the blue-collar Republican; voters who praise him as a 9/11 hero, or at the very least, who think he’s the only Republican who could beat a Democrat at a time when President Bush’s approval ratings are sinking below 30. The blue-collared Republicans number higher, so a thorough shake-out of the candidates’ values could drop Giuliani’s scores.

Rudy’s natural opponents? Ironically, they’re Catholics, who are often strikingly liberal on every issue except abortion, which is one of the central issues Giuliani crosses party lines to favor. Already, a number of Conservative Roman Catholic groups have emerged in opposition to Giuliani. But Giuliani doesn’t need the Catholic vote to win; he only needs a small percentage of these already-torn voters, and his standing as the first major Italian Catholic candidate may win him that.

Put Giuliani against Hillary Clinton, and we have a Republican it seems that everyone loves against a Democrat it seems that everyone hates. Even in a country that currently favors Democrats on the issues almost 2 to 1 in many cases, Giuliani might have enough moderate credentials to tip the scale, and lead to a surprising Republican victory in 2008. But as I have said before, Giuliani has a huge barrier to overcome: his personal life. Women, who make up more than half of the electorate, already lean to the left. Add the fact that Giuliani is a known adulterer, while Hillary was famously cheated on (and forgave) in the most high-profile sexual affair in world history, and suddenly poor Clinton seems far more appealing than she would against any other candidate.

The Tell-tale Heart of Facebook

It’s hard to gain any meaning from the blurry mishmash of views that is found in Internet politics, other than to say they seem to bring the debate to the primitive level of guttural grunts and gestures, and that they are also extremely important. Type in Hillary Clinton on Facebook, and find thousands of “I hate Hillary” groups; you go through 10 or 15 of these groups, each with 20-100 members before you find a single voice of support, a group that has maybe between 200 and 1,000 members. Type in Giuliani, and find only positive groups; “Giuliani for President,” or “I love Rudy Giuliani,” or “New York’s Mayor for U.S. President.” Each of the hundreds of groups has about 15 members – it seems an awful lot of people who thought hey, someone should start a Facebook group for Rudy Giuliani were disappointed to find that, months into the campaign, they were not the first to come up with the novel idea.

What does all that mean? Well, we know there’s a lot more hate for Hillary out there than for anyone else. And the nature of some of these groups, like “Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run for President, she should just run the dishes,” means they’re either not to be taken seriously or they include people who are never going to be won over under any circumstances. Being a former first-lady and an obvious politician makes her an easy target. It could also mean that conservative college students are more eager to put out negative messages than their counterparts, since across the board, every Democratic candidate has about as many hate groups directed at him or her as positive groups, though they tend to carry lower numbers. Meanwhile, anti John McCain groups are made by Republicans who criticize him for being a “liberal in disguise.” Anti-Republican groups, though quite easy to find, are not as common as anti-Democrat groups, even in a college culture that leans strongly to the left.

Barack Obama has three to four times as much support on Facebook as Hillary. It is known that Obama scores high among college students and college-educated people while Clinton scores best with Blue-collar Democrats, while Clinton’s scores are much higher overall. But the language of the Facebook groups, “Anti Obama Campaign – For Crack Heads on the Street & Not in the White House” verses “everyone who opposes Barack Obama is Racist” isn’t exactly graduate-level discourse. Here’s a good one: text in a group titled “Barack Obama is a Terrorist” reads, “Son of a Kenyan Muslim and a Hawaiian athiest…do you REALLY want this bastard running the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth?” There are a series of groups that do nothing other than accuse Obama of secretly being a Muslim fundamentalist; others are so racist they make you want to bleed through the eyes.

The impact of such groups on the election is yet to be known. Surely, they are more of a marker of feelings that are already there than a catalyst of them, but they do help Democrats know that Hillary won’t be their most well-received candidate to open-minded Conservatives. Or, it might indicate that the anti-Hillary (or anti-Anyone) factions are operating under arguments that can’t be beaten (since they are not based on reason or logic) and are best ignored.

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