Maybe it is because it is very early in the morning and the entire day seems ahead of me, but I have a sudden burst of optimism regarding the Iraq blurring strategy I have often fretted about. The simple fact is that a "centrist" or "compromise" position on Iraq is actually the least popular position of all. Like most DLC-nexus / Bush Dog proposals, it does not actually have a real base of support. About 60% of the country wants troops out of Iraq now, 30% wants Iraq to go on forever, while only about 10% believe that there actually is some form of compromise to be found. Consider, for example, that in NY-25, Jim Walsh's faux opposition to the war has not earned him any new friends among anti-war supporters, while angering the conservative party in the district:
But in the end, Walsh's move was met by little more than continued criticism from anti-war activists and silence or disappointment from his supporters.
John DeSpirito, chairman of the Onondaga County Republican Party, was in the unusual position of being almost speechless Friday when asked about the 10-term congressman.
"I'd rather not comment," said DeSpirito, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. "I don't have anything to say at this time."
The chairman of the Onondaga County Conservative Party, Austin Olmsted, said Walsh's decision could put him at risk of losing its endorsement for the first time.
"I wasn't shocked or stunned by his remarks," said Olmsted. "It's kind of what I expected from him. He looks at his position in Washington as a career path. He's not serving in a capacity as our congressional representative. He's serving as a career. Most of the people I spoke with feel the same way. It's a very sad event."
If Walsh loses the conservative party endorsement in the NY-25, it is game over for him. Dan Maffei will cruise to victory, as Walsh immediately drops at least 8% of the vote in a district he only won by 1.5% in 2006. He isn't going to make that up within an electorate that is angry over the failure of the both Bush and the Congress to end the war, especially since he still apparently opposes a timeline for withdrawal, has offered no specifics on exactly how his position has changed, and has only voiced support for the toothless Castle-Tanner proposal. From the same Post-Standard article:
"As far as specifics, he's not going to commit to anything yet," Gage said. "We have to wait and see what legislation is offered. So it's premature which bill he would support. I think Mr. Walsh is open to everything."
Walsh plans to join discussions Tuesday with other Republican House members who support a compromise bill on Iraq, Gage said.
Walsh is interested in a bipartisan approach being pushed by Reps. Mike Castle, R-Del., and John Tanner, D-Tenn., Gage said..
Wow, that is a really strong stance coming from Walsh-he doesn't even know how his position changed, and doesn't know what he supports. That will really win him a ot of votes. Unless more Republicans are willing to go as far as Jim Ogonowski in MA-05, and I seriously doubt that many will, this could be a pattern we see in many other areas. With an electorate angry that the war continues unabated, and a conservative base ready to dump any Republican who favors serious, meaningful opposition to the war, "compromise" solutions are basically just going to piss everyone off. The many Republicans who narrowly survived in 2006 will lose far more support from their conservative Republican base than they will gain from an electorate that is angry more hasn't been done to stop the war do far.
Ironically, the failure of the Democratic Congress to make a dent in the war might actually torpedo the political effectiveness of any "compromise" blurring strategy before it starts. When it comes to vague, toothless promises to end the war, the electorate has already been there and done that. At this point, voters don't want Congress to do less to end the war, they want to see more done:
NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Neil Newhouse (R). April 20-23, 2007. N=1,004 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1 (for all adults).
"What concerns you more -- that Congress will go too far in pressing the President to reduce troop levels in Iraq, or that President Bush will not make enough changes in his Iraq policy?"
Congress will go too far: 31%
Bush Won't Make Enough changes: 61%
This poll was taken after Democrats had already passed a bill with a binding withdrawal timeline through both the House and the Senate, and only 31% of the country thought that went too far. The idea that pulling back will appease them is ludicrous. Essentially, these compromise bills are just like pretty much everything else that comes out of the center-right, pro-elite, media and political establishment: it pisses everyone off, and has nothing in it that anyone likes at all.
Connecticut voters who fell for the blurring strategy in 2006 now feel a real sense of buyer's remorse. Even beyond Lieberman, around the nation, after an election that turned on the Iraq war was immediately followed by an escalation in American troops levels in Iraq, we might be past the point where voters are willing to hear out any "compromise" proposal to end the war. Simply put, at this stage, there just might not be any compromise to be had on Iraq. In fact, it could actually be a great opportunity not just for Democrats, but for progressive Democrats. Most Democrats in key districts will still take a position to the left of Republicans on the Iraq war, and those who do will prosper. Those who don't, well, then it will be their own damn fault if they lose. If Democrats in key districts are willing to call out the blurring strategy for the fake end to the war that it is, and if they are led by a Democratic nominee who says the same thing about what will almost certainly be the Republican nominee's faux promises on Iraq, then the electorate situation should be fine. The key, of course, is finding enough Democrats who are willing to take that position, which will require a lot of effort in upcoming primaries.
Dan Maffei in on the Blue Majority page.