I have written three books in the past three years that deal in whole or part with the differences between the Republican and democratic parties: If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat, Painting The Map Red, and A Mormon In The White House.
I believe in party politics, and the silly folks arguing for “non-partisan” or “bipartisan” approaches to politics distinguish themselves chiefly as ignorant of American political history or thoroughly deceptive in their appeals to the public.
What, I wonder, was the non-partisan approach to slavery? In 1860, the Democrats were for it, and the newly created Republicans against it. There wasn’t a lot of “common ground” on which to meet and confer.
Now we are engaged in another great debate about in which there is almost no middle ground, because the parties are –by and large, with some rare exceptions—approaching the issue from wholly different points of view: the war.
Democrats look at the world and see a necessary policing action against the Taliban that has been bungled and allowed to metastasize into a global conflict that has destroyed America’s standing in the world while crippling its ability to pursue the al Qaeda remnants hidden in the caves of Waziristan.
Republicans see a global jihadist crusade made up of two distinct but equally deadly branches of Islamist radicalism –the al Qaeda-led Sunni radicals, and the Iran-led Shia radicals. These branches hate each other but sometimes cooperate, and their deep desire for and attachment to violence and chaos is not rooted in poverty or powerlessness, but an understanding of religious mission.
Democrats see Iran’s nuclear program as a problem to be accommodated; Republicans as an existential threat not just to Israel but to the world because of the obvious consequences that would follow from a WMD attack on the Jewish state.
Democrats see the invasion of Iraq as a tragedy, a profligate expenditure of American blood and treasure in a horrific exercise of filial piety. Republicans see the invasion as the absolutely necessary second expression of a doctrine that holds that no maniac regime will be permitted to possess or appear to possess WMD that used against the West, either directly or through proxies.
Democrats see Lebanon and Gaza as unfortunate and even grievous reactions to the long- standing injustices suffered by victims of Zionist oppression. Many Democrats refuse this characterization and declare themselves staunch supporters of Israel, but their votes betray their deepest feelings. Saddam was, after all, the man who launched missile after missile at Israel and paid bounties to the families of suicide bombers. No genuine friend of Israel can regret his overthrow or the attempt to build a democracy in his wake.
Republicans understand Israel as America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, and its most vulnerable friend. They worry that Iran’s Ahmadinejad means what he says and intends to obtain the means by which he can implement his feverish ambitions. They see Israel as the survivor of six decades of relentless hostility and war, always ready to make peace but always rebuffed by its ideologically driven enemies.
Democrats see a glass not half full, but overflowing but for America’s continual upsetting of the table.
Republicans see shards.
Which brings me to Oregon’s Gordon Smith and other Republicans siding with the Senate Democrats in demanding defeat in Iraq.
I think most Republican senators up for re-election in 2008 who are seen by GOP voters to side with Harry Reid on the war will be swept away by Democratic challengers powered by fierce grassroots organizations even as they are deserted by Republican activists for whom resolve in the war is a non-negotiable priority. These races won’t even be close. The divide between the parties on the war is deep, and the base of the GOP simply will not turn out for, much less work for, round-heeled Republicans.
Parties matter, and the Republican party will purge the defeatists from its ranks, even if it means a horrible cycle or two. Clarity on this issue matters more than a couple of more votes in the Senate. The Republican Party is the party of resolve, the party committed to victory in the long war, and it will not welcome among its numbers, defeatists, no matter what their views on the advantages of low marginal tax rates.
This is as obvious as anything in American politics can be, but still many GOP senators –driven to distraction by MSM and polls?—think otherwise. They read in the results of the elections of 2006 a rejection of the war as opposed to a rejection of stalemate, profligate spending and scandal. Because they cannot conceive of victory, they cannot conceive of voters for whom only victory matters. What a surprise they are in for.
I hope the GOP senators who are good votes on most issues realize that the dynamic is completely different on the war votes. Voting with Harry Reid on the most important issue of our time makes that senator an afterthought –an incumbent not worth fighting for. Indeed, it makes him or her worth defeating.