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Will Democrats realize that Americans are tired of war?

Will Democrats realize that Americans are tired of war?
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With the nomination and likely confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the party of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing 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 ClintonMueller's team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate GOP pollster says polls didn't pick up on movement in week before 2016 election MORE.

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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 FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review MORE, Joseph Biden, John KerryJohn Forbes KerryBiden: ‘Totally legitimate’ to question age if he runs in 2020 Kerry decries ‘broken’ Washington Christine Blasey Ford has a credibility problem MORE and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers Senate Dems race to save Menendez in deep-blue New Jersey 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.