Matt Stoller wrote a diary at MyDD about Wartime Politics. Matt was looking for an answer to one question:
When has anti-war politics been good politics?
For my money, as far as historical comparisons go, Vietnam is still the best comparison, both militarily and politically.
Politically speaking Nixon and Bush were both re-elected as “war Presidents” only to have their popularity and effectiveness ended by an unpopular war. Watergate muddies the waters, but the question must be posed whether the political desperation that led Nixon into Watergate was influenced by McGovern and pressure from the anti-war movement.
Both Presidents had pre-election scandals that were studiously glossed over by the M$M until after the election. Nixon’s popularity plummeted [following his landslide victory over McGovern http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/people/A0860014.html]. Bush’s popularity plummeted after his narrow and questionable defeat of Kerry.
Chris Bowers has analyzed Bush’s plummeting poll numbers, and The Poor Man has great charts that graphically illustrate Bush’s problem. A bunch of M$M sources have pointed out how Reagan and Clinton both recovered their popularity after scandals, but they ignore the fact that Bush’s scandals have just gotten started. How can Bush recover from scandals that are still building to a crescendo?
Following Murtha’s condemnation of Bush’s war a bunch of M$M and conservative pundits, as well as several Democrats, insisted that we should wait until after Iraq’s Constitutional Assembly, scheduled for December 15th. Is it realistic to expect dramatic changes in Iraq thirty days from now? How stupid is it for Democrats to help relieve the political pressure on Bush?
Iraq and Bush’s scandals are both going to get worse. I think the only question is whether a fatally wounded Bush lingers on or resigns. Cheney is more directly involved in the WMD scandals and the unpopularity of Iraq than Bush. Amazingly, he’s also more unpopular than Bush. A variety of sources have insisted that Republican candidates in 2006 will ask McCain to campaign with them instead of Bush. Nobody has suggested that Cheney will be a big draw on the campaign trail.
To answer Matt’s question, I don’t believe that historical parallels where anti-war candidates did well politically are necessary. I don’t believe America has ever had a war that became this unpopular this quickly. I believe the relevant question that Democratic candidates should be asking themselves is Why has public support for Bush’s war droped so dramatically? Public opinion has not been moved by opposition from the Democratic Party. There is not a principled case that the M$M is driving public opinion with anti-war coverage. Cindy Sheehan and the anti-war protesters aren’t driving public opinion. Is it possible that America learned the right lesson from the Vietnam war after all, and we just didn’t know it?
I am not aware of a single Democrat in any state who has announced their intention to run in 2006 on a pro-war platform. If there are any they are fools. Bush and his war are both irredeemable failures.
To win in 2006 all Democrats have to do is look at which candidates are the most popular with both Democrats and Independents. That would be candidates who oppose everything Bush has done or wants to do. Polls repeatedly tell us that a very substantial majority of Americans are displeased with the direction our country is going. It’s time to start doing what the blogosphere has almost unanimously insisted Democrats should do for nearly a year now, which is start acting like an opposition party.
Forget the nonsense about loyal opposition. Just oppose every single piece of legislation Bush proposes. Republicans like to accuse Democrats of being The Party Of No, as if that’s a bad thing. They should become The Party Of Hell No! Stop helping Bush and the Republican Party get their legislation passed. Stop giving Bush cover on his immoral and unpopular war. Joe Biden should definitely stop saying he believes Bush is a nice guy. Democrats should definitely stop saying anything complementary about John McCain.
That brings us to the issue of whether Democrats should have an actual agenda or just be mealy mouthed fence straddlers. Harry Reid has said that Republican budget cuts are immoral. Last week Rahm Emmanuel rattled off four or five policy initiatives the Democrats are proposing. Damn straight the Democrats should have an agenda. They don’t need no stinking Contract On America. They just need a simple agenda that anyone at MyDD could write up in fifteen minutes or they could just steal Matt’s agenda.
Democrats should make it clear to the M$M and the American people that they do have a list of ideas and even some legislation they have dared the Republicans to bring up for a vote. Bush is running so far to his right that there is an entire galaxy of political space for Democrats to fill. They should absolutely not start chasing Bush to the right. Stand your ground on core principles and don’t budge. Don’t compromise.
That brings us to Harry Reid. Harry Reid must start calling leadership votes on damn near everything. Threaten committee seats and bring the Democratic Senate Caucus into line. There is a rotating clique of about a dozen conservative and DLC Senators who can be counted on to give Bush as many votes as he needs to pass damn near any piece of legislation he wants. As long as Harry Reid allows Bush and Rove to strip six to ten votes from the DLC and Blue Dog democrats on every vote, Bush is going to keep winning legislative victories.
The Senate is where unpopular legislation is supposed to get slowed down and stymied, not the House. Call leadership votes. Object to unanimous consent. Filibuster. Oppose Bush and win back Congress, win back the White House and take back America. It really is just that simple.