Watch out for bogeyman this year

Published 3:31 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2007

By Staff
The new political professionals who run campaigns today are highly paid hired guns. They go from state-to-state running U.S. senate and governors' races all over the country. Much like the gunslingers of the Wild West days they build a reputation. Just like the western gunslingers of bygone days, who would swagger into a bar of a new town and haughtily soak in their deference and respect or fear, these modern day political gunslingers waltz into a state demanding huge fees to elect the candidate who has hired them for that year's campaign.
These political gunslingers bring with them their team of pollsters, speech writers, and ad men, and of course their reputation for success and meanness. They must be mean in today's political world. The hired gun must be feared, not only for his success and number of victories, but he also must have a collection of scalps. He must be renowned for negative ads and attacking and destroying the opposition. Negative ads and success usually go hand-in-hand because they generally work.
These hired guns will usually find somebody or some entity to hate then create fear and hatred against this person or entity. In political terms it is called finding a bogeyman and running against him. Before the days of these political handlers our greatest Alabama politicians knew this theory instinctively.
George Wallace created the greatest southern bogeyman, the race issue. He ran against integration and then when that issue subsided, and more importantly after African Americans began voting, he made pointy headed liberals his bogeyman. He proudly proclaimed that if one of those longhaired pointy headed liberals lay down in front of his car he would run over them.
Big Jim Folsom used the &#8220soak the rich” philosophy the same way that Huey Long did in Louisiana. Big Jim ran against the rich &#8220Big Mules” of Birmingham. Big Jim would declare that he was the little man's big friend and he would defend them against the giant greedy corporate &#8220got-rocks.”
Republicans have for decades played the liberal card as though the word generically captures everything evil and corrupt in politics and decries the southern way of life. In the 2006 Governor's Race, Gov. Riley's handlers' initial ad attacked Lucy Baxley as being a liberal and likened her to Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Rodham Clinton was the biggest bogeyman, or should we say bogeywoman, used in the 2006 races by republican candidates. She has surpassed Ted Kennedy as the most liberal and hated democrat in Washington by most republicans. Infamous film director Michael Moore is also a hated bogeyman by the rightwing. He and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi are both distant lightening rods for republicans to bash.
Democratic enclaves are receptive to candidates using George Bush as a lightening rod. His administration's invasion of Iraq and his ties to big oil have incensed loyal democratic voters. The deficit and litany of republican congressional scandals are also good bogeyman material. Senator Larry Craig's recent hypocrisy is good fodder for campaign ads. As the 2008 Presidential Race fast approaches you will see these and other bogeymen appear.
Watch out for bogeyman this Halloween week and all next year.
Steve Flowers a political columnist. He served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at

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