Since the Democrats won control of Congress last fall, they've been besieged with warnings against acting too aggressively on Iraq. Such "moves carry clear risks for a party that suffered politically for pushing to end an unpopular war in Vietnam," suggested the Washington Post in January. And now that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are pushing to bring the troops home next year, the admonitions will probably grow. Just before the Senate narrowly voted down a Democratic resolution calling for withdrawal in 2008, a G.O.P. staff member crowed that "the public won't go for it." Haven't the Democrats learned anything from Vietnam?But the real danger is that the Democrats will believe the "conventional wisdom".
Actually, they have. Despite today's conventional wisdom, Democrats didn't suffer in the 1970s for opposing Vietnam. And they're even less likely to pay a political price for trying to end the war in Iraq.
The real danger for Democrats in the Iraq debate isn't that they'll oppose the war too aggressively; it's that they won't oppose it aggressively enough.The Democrats did indeed suffer after Vietnam but ending the war had little if nothing to do with it. There were several reasons. As a 61 year old "hippie" I look back on the me that was in the early 70's and it scares me. The radical social change which was very visible scared people - the drugs - the cloths - the open sex - the rejection of traditional religion. Now this was associated with the anti-war movement and the Democrats and hurt the party. Another big reasons was the civil rights movement; the Democrats lost a big chunk of their traditional base in the south. You can't outlaw bigotry and fear and Lee Attwater and the Republicans were able to take full advantage of it. And then related to some extent to the above was Roe V Wade. Attwater and the Republicans were able to redirect the energy of the Southern Conservative Christians from open bigotry to the more political correct "pro-life" movement.
Peter Beinart is correct, the real danger for the Democrats is not to oppose the war in Iraq with enough vigor.