FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trying to Catch Up with the Voters

 

Both Democratic and Republican politicians are becoming uncomfortably aware that they may have seriously miscalculated just how unpopular the war in Iraq is with a very large number of American voters. And the implosion of the Republican Party–battered by one tempest after another–is getting to be bad as it was in 1932 or 1964. Of course the political system will adapt. Already the National Review’s Bruce Bartlett is writing that the party’s candidate for the presidency is doomed in 2008 and prudent Republicans should rally behind Hillary Clinton.

Both for Republicans and Democrats fence-straddling on the war, let alone calls to “stay the course” are being seen as increasingly dangerous or fatal options.

Take John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, former POW in Vietnam and until recently deemed a sound bet to win his party’s nomination as presidential candidate. McCain saw his task as the simple one of banging the war drum more loudly than his rival, Rudy Giuliani and deriding the Democrats as wimps and traitors to the flag.

Today the McCain bandwagon is axle deep in news stories freighted with grim talk about his “doomed bid”. Mockery greeted his carefully planned photo-op last month in a Baghdad market, where ­- wearing body armor and amid a huge armed escort — he proclaimed that at last the tide was turning and the US press was ignoring the good news from Iraq. After that debacle, remembering the success of his jaunty call for bombing of Serbia in the mid-90s, “Lights out in Belgrade!” McCain then tried out a Beach Boy-type jingle, “Bomb, bomb Iran” which did him no good either.

His problems and those of Giuliani can be boiled down to the message of an Iowa poll released earlier this week: 56 per cent of registered Republicans want the troops out of Iraq within six months. The message? This electoral season any candidate shouting “Stay the course in Iraq” is doomed. So do the Republicans have a candidate with a simple call to bring the troops home now? Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has been saying this for months, but thus far he’s dithered on the edge of an announcement that he’s in the race.

After recapturing Congress last November the Democrats paid plenty of lip service to “the message from the voters” about getting out of Iraq. Substantively they didn’t plan to do much. Then the Democratic leadership discovered that the voters really had sent them a very explicit message and didn’t want to be fobbed off with set up some vague, non-binding resolutions about withdrawal deadlines. Candidates like Hilary Clinton are finding that brawny talk about “leaving all options on the table” (i.e., nuke Iran if necessary) isn’t at all popular with the solid liberal base they can’t afford to offend in the long march to the nomination.

By far the best performance at a recent Democratic candidates’ debate organized by MSNBC was by a very distant outsider, Mike Gravel, a 77-year former US senator from Alaska, well known nearly 40 years ago for his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In some electrifying tirades, he flayed Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and the others as two-faced on the absolute imperative of getting out of the war in Iraq and not getting into one in Iran. “They frighten me”, Gravel shouted, gesturing at his rivals. “You know what’s worse than one US soldier dying in vain in Iraq. It’s two soldiers dying in vain. In Vietnam they all died in vain.”

So the Democrats are edgy too, though not quite so much as McCain, whose only option is to turn on a dime and come out against the war at the end of the summer. What the Democrats fear is that a very significant number of voters are in a testy mood, ready to punish anyone–Democrat as well as Republican–who doesn’t have a clear, simple plan to bring the troops back home. So now they are openly conceding they misunderstood the public mood. But they are also aware that if they seriously tilt towards Gravel’s position about the insanity these overseas interventions they will be savaged by the political establishment on every talk show and every piece of political analysis in the mainstream press. So they are caught between the public mood and the imperial imperative and the latter will prevail in their calculations and thus–absent a prodigious orgy of doublespeak -alienate their political base.

There’s no serious Third Party peace candidate yet, but the possibility of one emerging haunts both sides. Ross Perot doomed George Bush in 1992. There isn’t a Democrat who doesn’t believe Ralph Nader sank Al Gore in 2000, whatever the actual truth may be.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail