Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Iraq and the election of '06

It seems a bit absurd as we bask in the balminess of summer solstice '06 to focus on a late autumn day. However, if you're a sucker for political news, it's hard to avoid all the analyses for this November's elections. During the spring, conventional wisdom led us to believe that all the Democrats had to do was stand on the sidelines, wait for GW Bush and the Repubs to sink in a quicksand mixture comprised of Iraq and high gas prices and start planning the pre-Thanksgiving celebrations. Events of the past couple of weeks seem to suggest that gamblers maybe should hedge on that bet.

Recent developments in Congress show that the Democrats will likely have to do more than sit on the sideline and sip cocktails while watching the Wicked Witch of the West melt into a watery heap. The Democrats sense that the American people want to see an Iraq end game, but they seem divided over whether to cut and run or cut and jog. If Democrats want to capitalize on Republican weakness on Iraq, they'll have to offer a plan of their own. They don't have to all agree, but there must be a clear Democrat alternative on Iraq in the minds of the American people.

This leads me to question just where does the American public stand on Iraq. Ed Cone generated some interesting comments with his post on Josh Marshall's calling Tony Snow out on a comment he made about polls and WWII's Battle of the Bulge. Snow contended that a 1944 poll would show disgust with the war effort. Marshall pulled out an actual poll from the era showing overwhelming support for the war effort despite the bloodbath at the Bulge.

Thanks to Google, I found a wonkish, but thankfully brief, analysis by MIT political science professor Adam Berinsky, who takes on the notion that mounting casualty counts lead to more war opposition. As a counter, Berinsky points out that in World War II, American elite opinion united in favor of the war effort from about 1942 onward, while it split on domestic issues. In Vietnam and Korea, elite opinion never unified behind or against the war efforts. For those of us who can't stray too far from the internet, it's obvious that elite opinion divides sharply over Iraq.

Maybe what we see with Iraq is not a sharp division among the entire country, but a division among those who take the time to educate themselves about Iraq and other current political events. For all we know this split may be reflected in election '06 or we may be confounded again. With that said, don't be surprised if you go to bed November 7 knowing that the GOP managed to hold onto a congressional majority, but once again, unless you're a committed gambler, you might want to wait until at least Labor Day before placing that bet.

Update: Upon reading the post again, I realized I left out something I intended to write concerning the "bloodbath at the Bulge." Much of the initial success of the German advance could be attributed to the mistakes of American and Allied military commanders.


Blogger bubba said...

Going back to your previous post, it seems that the Dems will try to use Haditha for a wedge issue among middle americans, even though Abu Ghraib didn't get the traction they wanted. They may not be able to withstand much more bad news like the Zarqawi death, the WMDs, and the lack of a Rove indictment.

Blogger Glenn said...

Dead on. The Dems sideline strategy will only work if almost all the news is bad for the GOP from now until November. Unfortunately for them, it's rare that war and other events don't remain static. I also believe illegal immigration will be a key issue in the election. It may sway voters in a direction that the Dems and Repubs such as GWB, McCain and Specter don't like.


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