March 6, 2005


A Democratic Call to Arms (Peter Beinart, March 6, 2005, Washington Post)

To understand why military voters matter to the Democratic Party's fate, consider what African American and Hispanic voters mean to the Republican Party. For four years -- through faith-based initiatives, conservative cultural appeals, Spanish-language infomercials and Cinco de Mayo celebrations -- Karl Rove has labored to bring ethnic minorities into the GOP. His calculation has been twofold. First, African American and Hispanic votes are valuable in and of themselves. Second, African American and Hispanic support helps Republicans overcome their image as exclusionary and hard-hearted -- and that wins over some moderate white voters as well.

For Democrats, the dynamic with military voters is the same. According to last year's exit polls, 18 percent of voters had served, or were serving, in the military -- roughly the same share of the electorate as blacks and Latinos combined. And just as minority support helps Republicans combat their reputation as mean, military support helps Democrats overcome their reputation as weak -- a reputation that particularly alienates non-college-educated white men, whether they have served in the military or not.

Republicans have been conquering their demographic challenge, while Democrats have not. Between 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush increased his share of African American votes from 9 percent to 11 percent, and in key states such as Ohio, he did much better than that. Among Hispanics, Bush's total rose from 35 percent to as much as 44 percent. But despite widespread talk about military disaffection over Iraq, John Kerry won only 41 percent of Americans with military experience. While active-duty, National Guard and Reserve voters are hard to poll scientifically, a survey last October by the Military Times gave Kerry a mere 18 percent. [...]

Democrats should acknowledge that at times the left's understandable anger over Vietnam degenerated into a lack of respect for the military. [...]

Genuine multiculturalism is not just about race, ethnicity and gender. It's about embracing people whose culture differs from yours, in hopes of finding core principles that you share. Over the past four years, Republicans have done that. Now Democrats must too.

That "understandable" pretty much undermines the whole essay.
However, let us assume a notion not in evidence -- that the Democtratic Party has core principles -- which principles might the average military man share?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Sometimes I wonder what planet or dimension Peter Beinart is from?

The GOP has made an honest effort to attract minority voters. It has tailored its message to appeal to the cultural conservatism and the desire for economic advancement of those voters. It has made a strenuous effort to elevate minority candidates at all levels. It has either jettisoned(Pat Buchanan), buried(Strom Thurmond), or hidden in a broom closet(Trent Lott) any of its visible faces that reasonably could be perceived as racist.

By contrast, look at the Democrats. They remain defined by their hostility to the military and all it stands for. It is the MoveOn bunch that parade around with banners reading 'We support our military so long as they kill their officers.' They are the ones making a huge stink about the Abu Gharib follies, surely the least atrocious 'atrocities' in the history of mankind. They are the ones who have cut the defense budget, and the veterans budget. It is Garry Trudeau who regularly ridicules veterans' hospitals for being 'overstaffed' or 'underutilized.'

The Democrats are on a treadmill. They cannot make even the merest approach to soldiers because it would alienate their sources of funds, the America-hating trust-fund Nihilist left. They need a complete overhaul, not a mere tune-up.

Posted by: Bart at March 6, 2005 7:02 AM

I am not sure how you interpreted the use of "understandable". It is bad enough -- but a subject of debate -- that the Left could have been legitimately angered OVER Vietnam. But the point being made is how this anger has tainted EVERY exercise in which America confronts its enemies SINCE Vietnam. Such religious aversion can not be rationally explained, unless it is assumed to be a definition of what it means to be on the West's Left -- which Vietnam, just exposed. So the Left's views are either capriciously irrational or thoughtfully dangerous. What a pick!

Posted by: Moe from NC at March 6, 2005 8:54 AM

"the left's understandable anger over Vietnam"

Angry, mais non mes amis, They were not angry. They were exhultant. They defeated the American army without firing a shot. They don't hate the AmeriKKKLan military, the fear and respect it as one would any other enemy. But, make no mistake, it is an enemy.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 6, 2005 1:17 PM

What it comes down to is that each party is saying to its target group, "those nasty things they say about us are not true." For the GOP, that's mostly true, as the wild nasty charges of racism usually only apply to a fringe element that's gets shunned (think Pat Buchannan.) or slapped down hard (Trent Lott). But, for the Dems, that statement is a lie, because the nasty things said about Dems vs. the military are mostly true. So why be so surprised that their attempts have failed?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 6, 2005 1:28 PM