Thursday, June 21, 2007

Will Iraq War Hurt Democrats More Than Republicans?

Most Democratic activists believe that the Iraq War assures that the next President of the United States will be a Democrat. While it would seem that Democrats have an advantage because of the Iraq War, success is not guaranteed. The Iraq War could actually cause more trouble for Democrats than for Republicans.

On the Republican side there doesn't seem to be any intraparty turmoil over Bush's war. The Republican base seems to support Bush on the war. The Republican candidates are pretty much in support of Bush for starting the war, although some break with him on how the war has been managed. On the Democratic side, however, it is a different story.

In the June 21, 2007 edition of the Washington Post we have this article by Senator Carl Levin, a sponsor of the recent war funding bill that was vetoed. On the face of it, this article seems to be a reasoned defense of why Democratic Senators don't want to vote for cutting off funding for the war. Sen. Levin's approach, however, leads to this response on Daily Kos. As you can see, by reading the entry on Daily Kos the writer rejects any argument that Democratic Senators who voted to fund the war without the timelines following Bush's veto did the correct thing. If you read the comments to the posting, it is almost impossible to find anyone who agrees with Senator Levin's article.

The problem is, of course, what to do about the fact that Bush has a veto power over Democratic passed legislation. Right now there does not exist enough Republican votes to pass a funding bill with timelines over his veto. The alternatives then seem either to be pass the funding bill without timelines or don't pass a funding bill at all. Of course, that means that Democratic Senators will be subject to the repeated claim by Republicans that they are "abandoning" American troops. Given the complicity of the media in Bush's war, this claim is very likely to be picked up by the media without any thought or consideration of whether it is correct.

Furthermore, such a funding cut-off of American troops while they are fighting has not, to our knowledge, been done before. Congress cut off funding for aid to South Vietnam in 1974, but that was after American troops had withdrawn from Vietnam. It also came after 12 years of American involvement in Vietnam. (Click here to read a short history of how Congress ended American involvement in South Vietnam.) Cutting off funding to South Vietnam is a far cry from cutting off funding for American military operations while American troops are engaged in combat.

Yet, such distinctions don't seem to matter to many Democratic activists. It is easy to see a situation where the activist base of the Democratic Party, angered at what many activists regard as complicity in Bush's War and by the nomination of a presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton who voted to authorize the war, walk away from the Democratic Party in 2008. This could easily lead to a situation where the Republican candidate has more support from his party than the Democratic nominee does from his or her party. It was just such a situation that helped elect Nixon in 1968 and Reagan in 1980. Who says that political history can't repeat itself?

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