Will Democrats realize that Americans are tired of war?

Will Democrats realize that Americans are tired of war?
© Getty Images

With the nomination and likely confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the party of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE is on the precipice of dominating all three branches of the federal government. After sweeping to victory in the 2006 midterms and then electing a popular two-term president in 2008, the collapse of Democratic influence in Washington represents an astonishing turnabout of political fortune.

A study suggests that a pivotal moment in the Democratic collapse happened in a Republican presidential debate in 2015, when Donald Trump established his reputation as an opponent of interventionism in the Middle East. During the debate, Jeb Bush chided Trump for his lack of foreign policy experience, and Trump unleashed a roundhouse punch that not only flattened Bush but ultimately Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT
While our infrastructure crumbles, Trump asserted that the United States spends trillions running around the Middle East “toppling” dictators. Trump doubled down and said, “We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to the Middle East. We have done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.”

Political scientists Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen argue in their study that in key Midwestern states, war casualties led directly to Clinton’s loss. Their data suggests that “Trump’s ability to connect with voters in communities exhausted by more than 15 years of war may have been critically important to his narrow electoral victory.” They found that if Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all states key to Trump’s victory, “had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue” and sent Clinton to the White House instead.

During the Vietnam War, the Democrats cultivated a reputation as the party of peace that would “bring the troops home.” The foreign policy establishment surrounding the Clintons squandered that reputation. While launching wars in the Balkans, Madeline Albright famously screamed at Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” When George W. Bush proposed the war in Iraq, Democratic senators Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Debate builds over making Mueller report public BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE, Joseph Biden, John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKerry rips Trump’s ‘pull-out, walk-away presidency’ Graham criticizes Trump canceling Pelosi trip as 'inappropriate’ Howard Dean to CNN: All Dem candidates qualified to be president except Tulsi Gabbard MORE and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE all voted yes.

With the disastrous war in Iraq, the Republicans lost the House and Senate in 2006. Two years later, the White House went to a Democratic “peace candidate.” Yet, the Democrats learned nothing from these Republican losses. As Clinton ensconced herself into the Obama administration as secretary of State, American interventionism in the Middle East went into overdrive. Within two years, Obama surged troop levels in Afghanistan to 100,000. He supported new wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

Right before turning Libya into a zombie state, Clinton belligerently remarked of that intervention and Muammar Gaddafi when she said, “We came, we saw, he died.” Despite his campaign pledges, Obama did not withdraw all troops from Iraq. In fact, towards the end of his administration, he sent more. The Obama administration’s interventionism went beyond the Middle East with Clinton ally and uber hawk Victoria Nuland helping to instigate a 2014 coup in Ukraine, assuming a warlike posture toward Russia that animates the Democratic Party still today.

As hawkish politicians know, embracing wars can bring enviable political advantages. Support for military interventions will bring fawning writings by defense “intellectuals” from think tanks and organizations generously funded by the military industrial complex. Campaign contributions will flow like water from defense and national security contractors. If you are particularly skilled and influential, a sympathetic intelligence community may even step up and surveille your political opponents.

Yet, as the study demonstrates, Democratic members of the “War Party” like Clinton and others in the establishment should not expect the support of small patriotic towns in the Midwest that regularly welcome back dead and legless soldiers from distant wars seemingly unrelated to American national interests. As the Zac Brown Band lamented in a country song released in the lead up to the 2016 race, why would these towns want to send their sons and daughters away “to give all in some god awful war?”

William S. Smith is a research fellow and managing director of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at the Catholic University of America.