Manufacturing consent on the filibuster

Though most Americans are against the nuclear option, a mysterious crop of letters has popped up in newspapers across the country in support of the GOP.

Published May 17, 2005 6:34PM (EDT)

The showdown over the GOP's campaign to phase out the judicial filibuster is imminent, and Republicans still haven't been able to rouse much in the way of public support for the plan. But that hasn't stopped them from trying: Blogger Echidne at Atrios points out that identical letters to the editor in support of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposal have been popping up in local papers around the country, using talking points that seem to come from Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman. (More on that time-honored tactic here.)

Whether the letters to local papers were actually sent by local residents or are coming straight out of GOP headquarters is tough to tell -- the RNC's offers a point-and-click scribe feature that allows visitors to assemble a letter out of prefab paragraphs, sign any name they wish, and automatically submit it to local papers. The site's visitors don't even have to know the names of the newspapers they're writing to; a handy zip code field lets them search for local rags by region.

Mehlman hasn't copped to the letter campaign, but he has been boasting about Republicans' recent "grass-roots" efforts, including ad campaigns and securing space in op-ed pages across the country. However smooth Mehlman's tactics, though, he's up against some creative campaigning from the other side -- including a "Save the Filibuster" event in the Capitol put on today by the Hip Hop Caucus, which counts the filibuster as one issue in its "comprehensive agenda for the Hip-Hop community."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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