By Branko Marcetic
In These Times (7/12/17)
The Democratic Party remains embroiled in a tug-of-war over its future direction. Critics on the left point to the party’s recent losses at all levels of government as evidence that Democrats must embrace a commitment to economic populism in order to regain political power. But there might be more to it than that.
A new study published by researchers from Boston University and the University of Minnesota Law School suggests it’s not just economic policies Democrats need to start reconsidering—their foreign policy also needs an overhaul.
The takeaway is clear: Adopting a more robust anti-war attitude would not just be the right thing to do on principle for the Democrats, but would also likely have a positive impact electorally.
“There is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump,” the study’s authors write. In fact, the study claims, war fatigue was key to handing Trump his wafer-thin margins of victory in a handful of key battleground states that helped put him over the top:
“If three states key to Trump’s victory—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.”
To reach their conclusions, the study’s authors plumbed information from the Pentagon’s Defense Casualty Analysis System on the 6,856 American soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, finding a “direct relationship between a state’s combat casualty rate and the state’s support for Donald Trump.” This pattern wasn’t limited to states, either. The same held true when the authors dug down to the county level: When soldiers didn’t return home, voters showed up for Trump.
Trump may not at first glance have been the logical tribune for Americans’ war weariness. He promised to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS, threatened to kill terrorists’ families, and suggested going into the Middle East with NATO to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”
At the same time, however, Trump also broke with GOP orthodoxy by criticizing George W. Bush over the Iraq War, which he called a “disaster” and a “big fat mistake.” And during the campaign, he declared his opposition to the Obama administration’s war in Libya (although Trump had initially supported both wars and, since being in office, has overseen the escalation of U.S. military aggression, from Afghanistan to Syria).
Perhaps more importantly, his Democratic opponent was virtually synonymous with both of these wars. Clinton had infamously voted to invade Iraq and then helped orchestrate intervention in Libya. Trump pilloried Clinton over both of these decisions throughout the campaign.
Of course, it’s possible the study’s results could be due to other factors as well. States and counties most impacted by wars may have been more likely to buy into Trump’s frequent paeans to veterans, which included raising $6 million for veterans charities (only some of which, mysteriously, has actually been passed on to veterans groups). And Trump held a commanding lead among members of the military, who voted for him over Clinton by a ratio of two-to-one. …
- Bitter Clinton Supporters Try to Unseat Bernie Sanders in Senate Race – Vermont resident Jon Svitavsky announced on July 5 that he is challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders in his upcoming re-election in 2018. In his most recent race for re-election, Sanders won over 71 percent of the vote and the Democratic Party didn’t bother to run a candidate. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Sanders received over 86 percent of the vote in Vermont. Among the small percentage of people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the state was Svitavsky, a homeless shelter director who is beginning to receive support from other disgruntled Clinton supporters across the country. Though Sanders enjoys overwhelming support in his home state, his political opponents around the country have isolated and built up naysayers to diminish his popularity. … Read the Rest