Some poll nerd may debunk this Peter Beinart post, but I fear he's right when he says that "security moms" are back for the first time since the early 2000s, and their concerns about terrorist violence are motivating them to back Republicans:
As a result of the ISIS beheadings, the percentage of Americans "very worried" about terrorism has just hit a seven-year high. Once again, women are more afraid than men. According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely to say they are "very" or "somewhat" worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism.... In a recent piece about "Walmart moms" who participated in focus groups in Des Moines and Little Rock, my colleague Molly Ball noticed the trend: "The women in both groups expressed pervasive worry about violence...."And Beinat thinks there isn't a damn thing Democrats can do to reverse this:
As in 2002, this anxiety about foreign threats is hurting Democrats. The GOP's advantage on "dealing with foreign policy," which was seven points last September, is now 18. And the shift toward Republicans has been strongest among women. In August, women were 14 points more likely to support Obama's foreign policy than men, according to a Wall Street Journal poll. Now the gap is down to two points.
In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.
As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish....The only way to win these voters over if you're a Democrat, I guess, is never to allow anyone on the planet to openly threaten America ever. If threats arise, Democrats are just screwed. They can't win with these voters.
But it doesn't work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there's no evidence that Obama's new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they're more wary of going after ISIS.
And that's a double standard. Look, I understand that President Obama failed to anticipate the rise of ISIS and failed to prevent the beheading of two Americans, but George W. Bush failed to prevent 9/11, and these "security moms" responded by voting for his party in 2002 and 2004.
As a New Yorker, I'm familiar with the domestic version of this. If you're a liberal mayor -- David Dinkins or Bill de Blasio -- the public's reaction to a crime wave or a horrific crime on your watch is to blame you. If you're a conservative mayor -- Rudy Giuliani or the all-but-Republican Ed Koch -- the reaction is to rally around you, because you're "tough on crime." A horrible crime on a tough mayor's watch is considered further evidence that we need precisely the tough guy's policies.
We've been lulled for eight years by the Democrats' ability to escape (temporarily) from the dirty-hippie foreign policy straitjacket, but I guess it's 1972 all over again and Barack Obama is George McGovern, and it seems he can't even fight his way out of it. He was just supposed to keep us all safe. Two nasty deaths and it's all over. (How many were hanged on that bridge in Fallujah eight months before Bush's 2004 election victory? How may died in the embassy annex bombing in Lebanon six weeks before Ronald Reagan's landslide victory?)
I'd love to be able to back a Democrat in 2016 who's more progressive than Hillary Clinton, but this is one reason I feel Democrats have to get behind her: because of her frequent hawkishness, she's got a certain degree of immunity to this. We'll see if it lasts through November 2016. If she wins, I strongly doubt that it will last through her presidency. Sooner or later once she's in office, she'll become just another peacenik who's constitutionally incapable of keeping us safe.
And yeah, I know that some poll watchers are saying the Democrats' prospects in November are improving, but very recent polls for Mark Udall, Bruce Braley, and Jeanne Shaheen are just awful. Maybe it's not a trend, but these polls coincide with a terrible poll for Obama. So, yeah, I'm worried.