Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Dems’ Dilemma

In the October issue of TAP, Matthew Yglesias takes a look at the quandary facing anti-war Democrats are facing. The link will only get you the first paragraph, but the problem as Yglesias frames it boils down to this:

But despite the careful efforts at political positioning and the blows President Bush has taken on the Iraq issue, Democrats of all stripes face a painful political problem of their own. Most polls have support for withdrawal in the near future in the low 40s. That’s not nearly enough for an anti-war campaign to win. At the same time, those numbers suggest that an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters want the war to end soon. It’s hard to imagine Democratic politicians credibly positioning themselves as the leaders of a party of better war management as long as it’s clear that, in office, they’d be beholden to a deeply anti-war base. Moreover, there’s reason to think that even if a majority of Americans do come to favor abandoning the war effort, advocating withdrawal would be a poor political strategy. Defeatism, as the 1972 election showed, is not a very appealing political product, even in the context of a deeply unpopular war.
So the Dems are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Yglesias suggests that Democrats take a wait and see approach, at least through the midterm elections, to see how public opinion plays out at the polls. I agree that this is the right political maneuver. But what happens if the hawks win out again in 2006? Do Democrats adjust their national platform for 2008 to reflect public support for continuing the failing war effort?

Politicians who tell voters what they don’t want to hear don’t get elected. So using Yglesias’s scenario, I hope public opinion begins to move toward favoring withdrawal, which would give Democrats the leverage they need to start pushing a real anti-war platform. Withdrawal might look like quitting to Americans, but if we’re still losing soldiers in Iraq at the rate we are now come 2008, Democrats will wish they'd quit when they had the chance.

--Matthew McCoy