Wednesday, January 18, 2006

All Those Fightin’ Dems

[[T R E N D S]] * In case you haven’t spotted it already, there’s an intriguing piece in the January/February issue of The Atlantic Monthly about the “sizable number of veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq” who have chosen to run for Congress in next fall’s midterm elections. “At least fourteen have declared so far,” senior editor Joshua Green writes in “Company, Left,” and “nearly ever one of them is a Democrat.” Spurred on by the example of Paul Hackett, a major in the Marine Corps and a vigorous critic of George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, who last August ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s “staunchly conservative” 2nd District--and came within a few thousand votes of an upset victory--these other young Democratic vets are “running on the attractively civic-minded notion that service in Congress is a patriotic extension of service in the military. They are spread throughout the country but concentrated in military-heavy states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Texas, where the war and its effects are most keenly felt.” Green notes:

Rightly or wrongly, the current crop of veterans seems to be inoculated against the standard criticism of Democrats as weak on national security. And most of the voters I encountered appeared to look at service in Iraq or Afghanistan as not just a desirable credential but one that confers unchallengeable moral standing--no small thing at a time when ethical transgressions promise to be central to the fall elections.
Can they win? Green observes that

Although veterans of any war tend to be held in high esteem, only wars that voters perceive the United States to be losing awaken the type of anti-Washington sentiment that is suddenly so widespread. And yet that did little to put Vietnam veterans in office three decades ago. What’s different about this war is how veterans perceive, and in turn are perceived by, the Democratic Party. The antiwar movement during Vietnam (and by extension the Democratic Party) was heavily anti-GI as well. But even the most strident antiwar faction of today’s party is unquestionably pro-soldier.
The combination of dissatisfaction with Bush and his war, and the willingness of Democrats to take the fight to ethically challenged Republicans, could help make the difference between a GOP-controlled Congress in 2007 ... or one in which Dems have at least as much sway. Stay tuned.

READ MORE:Will Veterans Make the Best House Candidates in ’06?” by Stuart Rothenberg (The Rothenberg Political Report).

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