To pledge or not to pledge

In what he says may be his last post about “the pledge” Dean Barnett defends his claim that “the Republican Senators who will support [a resolution criticizing the ‘surge’] will do so not out of any sort of conviction but due to political expediency.” I had challenged that claim, which Dean says is the premise of his efforts to get folks to pledge not to support such Senators. My argument was that, since many conservatives say the surge is a bad idea, it stands to reason that some center-right Senators also hold that view. Thus, it would be unfair to conclude that a given Senator who votes in favor of a resolution criticizing the surge is not following his or her conviction.
Dean responds that (1) the vast majority of conservatives support the surge and (2) the five Senators that someone at the Daily Kos says support Senator Warner’s resolution all are up for re-election in 2008. At the risk of inducing Dean to write more about the pledge (not a risk, actually; Dean is always fun to read), let’s take another look at this issue.
As to conservative sentiment, Hugh Hewitt has posted poll numbers on his (and Dean’s) blog. They show that one-third of Republicans and a little less than one-fourth of conservative Republicans oppose the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. There are 49 Republican Senators, a majority of whom can probably be considered conservative. Thus, the law of averages tells us that, political calculation aside, more than a few Republican Senators and at least a few conservative Senators also oppose the plan. Thus, it seems unfair to assume that a given Republican Senator (even a conservative) who ends up voting for the surge is not following his or her conviction.
Dean focused not on Hugh’s polls, but on his own sense of what the conservative “punditocracy” believes. My sense is different. At Power Line, for example, I said the surge was not the way to go, and John also expressed skepticism; I don’t recall what position Scott took, if any. But I agree with Dean that we don’t need to do a pundit headcount — the polls on Hugh and Dean’s blog are the best evidence of the extent to which Republicans want to send more troops to Iraq. They tell us that enough of them don’t want this that we don’t need to accuse Seantors of political calculation on a matter this important in order to explain the existence of Republicans prepared to vote for the Warner resolution.
But what, Dean asks, does the law of averages say about the fact that the five Senators identified by the Daily Kos as favoring the Warner resolution are all up for re-election? The five are Hagel, Collins, Smith, Coleman, and Warner. No one who has followed Hagel and Collins (both of whom have great approval ratings) can reasonably doubt that they are genuinely opposed to the surge. Their vote for an anti-surge resolution would be no more politically motivated than the similar vote of say, Senators Biden, Rockefeller, or Reed of Rhode Island or the contrary vote of Senators Sessions or Graham — all of whom are also up for re-election in 2008.
That leaves Smith, Coleman, and Warner. I’m no mathematician, but with a sample size this small and with 21 Republicans up for re-election in 2008, I’m pretty sure the law of averages has nothing to say about them as a group on this issue. And it certainly can’t tell us whether any given Senator in this group is basing his vote on political calculation.
This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t take the pledge. One might conclude that voting for the Warner resolution or its ilk is sufficiently misguided on a matter of sufficient importance to justify throwing Senator Coleman, for example, under the bus. But, regardless of how he votes, I intend to keep open my option to lend financial support to Coleman when he runs against Al Franken or whichever liberal Democrat he faces.
Meanwhile, at least Dean and I agree about Lawrence Korb.


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