BUT CONOR, WE LIVE IN A RAGE-OCRACY, NOT A DEMOCRACY
Conor Friedersdorf is puzzled:
... A November 2011 CNN poll found that 68 percent of Americans oppose the [Iraq] war. A CBS News poll from the same month found that 49 percent of Republicans believe the Iraq War was "not worth it" compared to 41 percent who said the war was worth it. And as President Obama oversees a substantial pullout from the country, 71 percent of Americans say bringing our troops home is the right decision.
Despite all that, the Republican Party is attacking President Obama over his withdrawal of troops. And the Republican primary race is full of candidates who supported the war: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum all favored waging it....
Why is support for the Iraq War still an unofficial litmus test in the GOP?
Simple: because what decides the viability of a political stance isn't the raw percentage of people who support it, but the percentage of people whose blood boils at the mere thought of anyone opposing it. The GOP has done a terrific job of ginning up right-wing outrage at filthy hippies who don't support star-spangled patriotic wars -- and while anti-war voters were stirred up in 2006 and 2008, that wasn't the same as a sense of permanent outrage at what's perceived as sandal-wearing hippie peacenik thinking. It doesn't matter that this particular outrage is now felt by less than a third of the public: that minority sliver of the population insists on bellicosity far more than the vast majority of us now insist on the opposite. Please note that 71 percent of the public doesn't oppose the Republican presidential candidates who object to withdrawal from Iraq -- they're indifferent to that. Only the hawks are passionate.
Which is why Friedersdorf (whose point is listen to Ron Paul, dammit!) is naive when he writes this:
There is a chance [the Iraq War] could play a much bigger role in the general election. When President Obama debates his Republican opponent on foreign policy, he'll likely be able to cite that candidate's support for a war that a healthy majority of general election voters regard as a mistake.
Obama can try citing it, but most of the public has moved on. But the angry hawks never move on.
The GOP is excellent, of course, at turning its voters into people who never, ever move on on a wide range of issues: guns, abortion, tax increases, and so on. On the subject of tax increases (and economic policies in general), I think Kevin Drum is basically correct when he takes a jaundiced view of that new Pew poll. It's true that the poll says
large majorities think that corporations and the rich are too powerful, our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, and Wall Street is bad for the economy. What's more, there's a big decline in the number of people who think hard work leads to success and a big increase in the number of people who think they're part of the have-nots.
But this is also essentially true:
Americans say the current system is unfair and favors the rich, but if you ask about specific things we could do to change that, I'll bet support drops off dramatically. You can see some of this in the question about threats to America's well-being. Only 56% name the power of banks and Wall Street, while 76% think the national debt is a big threat. This is not a sign of a country that's seriously bent out of shape about growing inequality.
Sure, lots of people support modestly higher taxes on the rich, but serious reform to cut Wall Street down to size or reduce the influence of corporations and the rich? The kind that people feel strongly enough to march in the streets about or elect a Congress that agrees with them? We're not there yet.
I wouldn't say the problem is that "support drops dramatically" for actual remedies -- people support a lot of progressive remedies. But there just isn't enough outrage to get them passed. There is, however, plenty of outrage (ginned up by the right-wing noise machine) in favor of not doing these things -- and that simply trumps the opinion of progressive-leaning majority on these issues.
Minority rage wins every time.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)