The Audacity of Hate

February 19, 2020

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Karl Rove had a novel idea for how to organize President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

He and the chief campaign strategist, Matthew Dowd, decided on a “base strategy.” They reallocated the bulk of the campaign’s media budget to focus on social conservatives instead of on moderates — a decision predicated on the fact that the swing, or persuadable, share of the electorate had shrunk from one in five voters to less than one in 10. The most effective use of campaign funds, the thinking ran, was to invest in turning out more of the millions of white right-wing voters who needed to be motivated to show up at the polls.

The result was a shift that year from a traditional centrist strategy to an emphasis on anger and fear, a shift that turned out to have profound long-term consequences.

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