Tonight, Scott and I and our wives and guests were among the crowd at a Center of the American Experiment event featuring Michael Barone. Michael was funny and engaging as well as encyclopedic in his command of American history and politics. One subject he didn’t talk about tonight, but wrote about earlier today, is why the Democrats are so unenthusiastic this year. Michael’s analysis is searing but all too true:
So why are Democrats less enthusiastic? And why has “the progressive donor base,” as Democratic consultant Jim Jordans reports, “stopped writing checks”?
I don’t think it’s just because the economy remains sour or that President Obama failed to jam a public option in the health care bill. …
For it is not economics but foreign policy that has motivated the left half of the Democratic Party over the last decade. … [Obama] has left these Democrats disappointed.
They hoped to see an abject and abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within weeks of the Obama inauguration. They hoped to see a beginning of withdrawal from Afghanistan not in July 2011 but in the early months of 2009. They hoped to see the detention facility at Guantanamo closed and shuttered and the detainees tried in civilian courts or freed to regale the media with tales of torture.
The uncomfortable truth is that many — not most, but many — Democratic politicians and Democratic voters saw political benefit in an American defeat in Iraq. Many, including Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, then boss of Obama’s new chief of staff Pete Rouse, thronged to the Washington premiere of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” They tried to give every appearance of agreeing with the “Bush-lied-people-died” crowd and with those who charged that high-ranking officials colluded in systematic torture.
It was a lot of fun while it lasted, up to election night 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009. But then Obama had to govern. Knowing little of military affairs, he retained Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has loyally served presidents of both parties. Understanding even if not admitting the great headway Americans had made in Iraq, Obama declined to throw it all away.
Appreciating that Afghanistan was critical to protecting Americans, he made a commitment to increase troop levels there in May 2009, reconsidered it from August to November, then restated it Dec. 1, with a commitment to begin withdrawals in July 2011.
In so doing, Obama implicitly confessed that the view of the world held with quasi-religious fervor by the Democratic left was delusional all along. Bush didn’t lie, we didn’t go into Afghanistan and Iraq without allies and against their wishes, we didn’t carry out policies of torture, etc. The effort to cast Iraq as another Vietnam and America under Bush as an oppressive rogue power were perhaps emotionally satisfying but unconnected to reality.
But, as Michael says, many Democratic donors and voters are more committed to their leftist fantasies than to reality, so “[t]hey’re keeping their ears plugged up and their eyes defiantly shut. Their MyObama Web pages are inactive and their checkbooks are closed.” And that is a very good thing.