In all this they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press. The struggle in Iraq has been portrayed as a story of endless and increasing violence. Stories of success and heroism tend to go unreported. Reporters in Iraq deserve respect for their courage -- this has been an unusually deadly war for journalists, largely because they have been targeted by the terrorists. But unfortunately they and the Bush administration have not done a good job of letting us know that last pertinent fact.
We are in an asymmetrical struggle with vicious enemies who slaughter civilians and bystanders and journalists without any regard for the laws of war. But too often we and our enemies are portrayed as moral equivalents. One or two instances of American misconduct are found equal in the balance to a consistent and premeditated campaign of barbarism.
All of this does not go unnoticed by America's voters. The persistence of violence in Iraq has done grave damage to George W. Bush's job rating, and polls show that his fellow Republicans are in trouble. Yet when people actually vote, those numbers don't seem to translate into gains for the Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry got 44 percent of the votes in the 50th district of California. In the April 2006 special primary, Democrat Francine Busby got 44 percent of the votes there. In the runoff last week, she got 45 percent and lost to Republican Brian Bilbray.
The angry Democratic left set the tone for the 2003-04 campaign for the party's presidential nomination, and John Kerry hoped that it would produce a surge in turnout in November 2004. It did: Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore. But George W. Bush got 23 percent more popular votes in 2004 than in 2000.
In California's 50th, both parties made mammoth turnout efforts, but the balance of turnout and of opinion seems to have remained the same, even though Democrats had a seriously contested primary for governor and Republicans didn't. The angry Democratic left and its aiders and abettors in the press seem to have succeeded in souring public opinion, but they haven't succeeded in producing victory margins for the Democrats. Maybe they're doing just the opposite.