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Fighting Dems

Mar
17
2006

The concept of the Fighting Dem is pure gimmick: an attempt to neutralize the Democratic Party’s weakness on war-related issues by fielding veterans in the 2006 elections. Contrary to stereotype, there are Democratic veterans — I know a couple — and they are proving a useful tool for a party seeking to paper over its grievous generational weakness on security and defense. The Fighting Dems symbolize, among other things, the American left’s supposed identification with the American soldier. It’s a poor substitute for actual support of the American soldier in the only way that really matters — namely, by seeking victory for his cause — but it’s more than the Democrats have managed to do since 1972, and so in that sense, we may take heart. Chalk up one more sign of the rightward shift of the American center: gun rights are secure, the pro-life cause may shortly be ascendant, and the Democrats have to put up soldiers for election.

Most of the Fighting Dems are veterans from long ago, whose long stint since in civilian life does not give their military service especial resonance with the electorate. But there is a core group of seven who are veterans of the present war in Iraq — and they are the ones whose status gives them an advantage in 2006. They are also the ones who expose the fundamental problem with the Fighting Dem gimmick.

The Democratic Party is described by some of its most fanatical devotees as “stand[ing] for nothing.” But that’s not entirely true: the party, or at least its base, does stand for certain things, and chief among them in the present day is strident opposition to the war in Iraq. The Democratic base has therefore spent a great deal of time of late searching for formulae by which to bravely run away, and putting forth these Iraq war veterans is part of that. But in their grasping for fig leaves, they have missed an otherwise important point: the majority of those veterans don’t want to run. In fact, their positions on the way forward in Iraq are not meaningfully different from that of the Bush Administration. Sure, they bash the Administration thoroughly and often — but the devil is in the concrete details:

Andrew Duck, running in MD-6, definitively declares that “We cannot set a timetable for withdrawal” from Iraq. Tim Dunn, running in NC-8, states, “I do not support a time table for withdrawal” from the war. Tammy Duckworth, running in IL-6, writes, “The fact is we are in Iraq now and we can’t simply pull up stakes and create a security vacuum.” Joe Sestak, running in PA-7, does state that he “firmly believe[s] in a planned end to our military engagement in Iraq within the next year,” but then hedges his position by allowing for an extended presence if “military experts” deem it necessary. Patrick Murphy, running in PA-8, praises Jack Murtha repeatedly, but finally allows that he is “not advocating an immediate and unilateral pullout from Iraq.” Of the remaining two, Andrew Horne, running in KY-3, is apparently opaque in his prescription for Iraq; leaving only David Harris, running in TX-6, to boast of his unconditional support for “set[ting] a timetable for withdraw (sic) of our forces in Iraq,” and to stupidly assert that the insurgency does not “want to rule the country of Iraq.”

These veterans are almost assuredly good people, and doubtless good Democrats to boot. But are they the type of candidates to bring home a Democratic victory in November? Will the oft-frustrated leftist base get excited over a warmed-over Bush Administration prescription for Iraq — from a soldier? It does seem exceedingly unlikely. The relationship of the Democratic Party with the American military is rather akin to the Republican Party’s relationship with African-Americans: in each case there is a party seeking to woo a group that is rightly embittered at past wrongs — and doing a ham-handed job of it. A party wallowing in 35-year old paradigms of Vietnam that sees no problem nominating for President an infamous slanderer of American soldiers is fundamentally unready to appreciate the qualities that make a military-veteran candidate unique and useful to the public discourse — to say nothing of taking advantage of their qualities once in office. Rest assured that should they enter a Democratic-majority Congress, Duck, Dunn, Duckworth, Sestak, and Murphy will not be listened to as the plans are formulated for a cut-and-run.

In the past 48 hours, Operation Swarmer was launched against insurgent targets north of Baghdad. It was announced to the world’s press as an “air assault” mission. This leftist, this leftist, this leftist, this leftist, this leftist, this leftist, this leftist, and this leftist think an “air assault” is a form of cruel aerial terror-bombing. (Rest assured that the list is limited only by the swift onset of boredom as one compiles it.) Air assault is, in fact, an operational method of delivering light infantry to a combat zone via helicopter. The United States Army runs schools in the technique, and has an entire division devoted to the concept. This much is basic knowledge to anyone with a passing familiarity with the American military: and the American left, though its own choice, is chronically short of that type.

As much as the fundamental divergence in policy views, the fact that the self-proclaimed netroots for the most part leaps to conclusions of atrocity and horror inflicted by the very soldiers they seek to exploit in this election says everything about the sad reality of the Fighting Dems — and why they will fail.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 10:37 AM | Permalink

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