Whether or not the Republicans do well in the 2010 congressional elections by mobilizing the general dismay with the Obama administration, it seems clear that the Republican opposition to Obama in 2012 will include opposition to his war policy. The question is what form it will take. I’m coming to doubt that it will consist of a call for more war. (That will come from Democrats like Obama’s mentor Lieberman.)
In the presidential elections of 1952, 1968, and 2000, Republican candidates did well by running against the wars being conducted or recently concluded by incumbent Democratic administrations. Eisenhower’s “I will go to Korea,” Nixon’s “secret plan to end the Vietnam war,” and Bush’s opposition to “nation building” (referring to the Clinton-Gore war in the Balkans) all garnered them votes. It’s possible that a more honest debate on the Long War in the Mideast (it’s not about stopping terrorism) may occur because the Republican wing of our one-party government (it’s one business party) may see it as in its short term interest in 2012.
Of course there have been for some time principled opponents of the Mideast war among Republicans, notably the paleoconservatives around the journals “American Conservative,” “Chronicles,” and the website Antiwar.com. See Bill Kauffman’s excellent book “Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism” (2008). And add now the Ron Paulists – their critique of the war is as clear and cogent as Dennis Kucinich’s and has a larger following – and even a not insubstantial group among the Tea-partiers.
The Democrats’ sell-out on the war has been clear since the Kerry campaign – and their betrayal once they got control of the Congress. Obama sold himself to our rulers with the promise that he could bring the dissidents – primarily the anti-war movement – back in, and he largely succeeded. (The segments of “The Audacity of Hope” on the Vietnam war makes particularly instructive reading on this point.)
An effective anti-war movement in the coming year(s) will have to be marshaled against the Democrats’ policies, and of course against the principal commitments of the Republican party as well. But in the short term we might find some Republicans who claim to be fellow-travelers on the road to a principled peace. We shouldn’t immediately try to kick them to the curb, if only because they’ll provide us with opportunities to talk to more people.