alien & sedition.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
  Not Gonna Happen

I'll leave it to better bloggers to explore, in depth, the ramifications of the Democrats' capitulation on war funding. But I will take the opportunity to suggest that we finally ditch the notion that any significant number of Republicans are ever going to "abandon" the president and turn against the war in any substantive way. Atrios and Yglesias have made this point with regard to the GOP's presidential contenders, none of whom -- Ron Paul aside -- are going to break with the current administration's pro-war line. Ever.

I'll quote Yglesias at length, since he explains it well:
[I]t's worth noting that a significant faction of Democrats have persistently believed that the Bush administration was about to begin withdrawing from Iraq ever since 2004.

After three years of that forecast being perpetually wrong, it's now been displaced onto Mitt Romney or John McCain or whomever. Since this idea is so persistent, I think it bears mentioning that it's part of a pretty contradictory set of beliefs. The conventional wisdom, in essence, holds that running stridently against the war spells political doom for the Democrats. It also holds, however, that running stridently against the war is unnecessary because the Republicans will end the war anyway. Meanwhile, the Republicans are supposed to be doing this for political purposes.

These things can't, however, all be true. And, indeed, I think time has proven that the Republicans basically think the "doves are doomed" theory of politics is correct. They attribute their loss in 2006 to corruption and (hilariously) to "earmarks," attribute their wins in 2002 and 2004 to "toughness" and think that it always makes sense politically for the GOP to mark itself off as more militaristic and nationalistic than the opposition. My guess is that the persistent belief that Bush would end the war was driven by a fear that this theory is correct; it's a form of wishful thinking. But people should get over it. The war is, in fact, unpopular. The GOP is, in fact, determined to stay robustly to the Democrats' right on the war.
One might add that even if the Republican contenders were inclined to go dove, they'd hold back from doing so simply because the Bush administration, weakened though it may be, still has plenty of power to meddle in the politics of the upcoming elections.

All of this serves to reinforce the point that hopes for a change of course in the September Defense bill negotiations are groundless. There is no reason to expect the political dynamic then to be any different than it is now. The administration will continue to insist that victory is right around the corner, pundits will continue to repeat the talking point that any Democratic move to limit war funding would constitute Not Supporting the Troops, the veto will continue to be in play, and Republicans will be just as convinced as ever that their best strategic option is, as Yglesias says, to stay to the Dems' right on war and terror.

The various signs of GOP dissent over Iraq -- for instance, the recent visit to the White House by a delegation of "concerned" Congressional Republicans -- are, almost without exception, acts of political theater designed to demonstrate their disapproval of bad stuff without requiring them to actually do anything of substance. We keep hearing how demoralized Congressional Republicans are by the war, but they don't vote like they're demoralized. And the GOP presidential candidates won't jump ship either. That may or may not prove to be their political undoing -- but let's stop pretending that they're ever going to say no to this war in any meaningful way.

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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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