‘You Always Want To Polarize Somebody’

‘YOU ALWAYS WANT TO POLARIZE SOMEBODY’….In 2002, New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race was too close to call, so top GOP officials came up with a clever-but-illegal plan: have a telemarketer tie up Democratic and union phone lines in order to interfere with their get-out-the-vote drives. Whether the scheme to criminally interfere with the election process was the deciding factor is unclear, but Republican John Sununu won the race by only 19,000 votes.

The scandal, which the Bush White House may or may not have been aware of, sent a few Republican officials to jail, including Allen Raymond, a former RNC official who sat down this week with down the Boston Globe for his first post-incarceration interview. Apparently, he’s had time to reflect on what his party is all about.

[Raymond] said the scheme reflects a broader culture in the Republican Party that is focused on dividing voters to win primaries and general elections. He said examples range from some recent efforts to use border-security concerns to foster anger toward immigrants to his own role arranging phone calls designed to polarize primary voters over abortion in a 2002 New Jersey Senate race.

“A lot of people look at politics and see it as the guy who wins is the guy who unifies the most people,” he said. “I would disagree. I would say the candidate who wins is the candidate who polarizes the right bloc of voters. You always want to polarize somebody.”

Raymond stressed that he was making no excuses for his role in the New Hampshire case; he pleaded guilty and told the judge he had done a “bad thing.” But he said he got caught up in an ultra-aggressive atmosphere in which he initially thought the decision to jam the phones “pushed the envelope” but was legal. He also said he had been reluctant to turn down a prominent official of the RNC, fearing that would cost him future opportunities from an organization that was becoming increasingly ruthless.

“Republicans have treated campaigns and politics as a business, and now are treating public policy as a business, looking for the types of returns that you get in business, passing legislation that has huge ramifications for business,” he said. “It is very much being monetized, and the federal government is being monetized under Republican majorities.”

As Digby put it, “It’s amazing what happens to people when they run into trouble with the law, isn’t it? Talk about your moral clarity.”

According to this former top GOP operative, today’s Republican Party believes in not only pushing the envelope in terms of what’s legal, but it’s also anxious to tear the electorate in half, and hope the GOP is left with the bigger chunk. In terms of policy making, the distinction between cut-throat campaigning and governing is practically gone. It’s all part of the “broader culture in the Republican Party.”

This should come as a surprise to, well, no one, but it’s always nice to have an experienced Republican insider admit it.