Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The political risks of being right

Barack Obama in Austin. Image originally uploaded by That Other Paper.

Peter Beinart, arguing that Americans are too short-sighted to remember the start of the Iraq war, thinks that Obama has a problem:
Recent American history is littered with candidates who were right about war and weren't rewarded at election time.
Really? Is that right?

Lets see. What happened to the 23 Senators who voted against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq?
  • Paul Wellstone, died in a plane crash
  • Jon Corzine got promoted to Governor of NJ and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Paul Sarbanes retired and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Mark Dayton retired and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Bob Graham retired and was replaced by a Republican
  • Lincoln Chafee (the only Republican) lost to a Democrat
So 1 lost his seat (the Republican, for siding with Bush too often - to an anti-war Democrat). All the rest are still in the Senate. That doesn't seem too bad for the group that were "right about the war".

How did the 77 who voted for the Iraq war fare?
  • Democrats Carnahan and Cleland lost their bids for reelection a month after the vote. (They were accused of being soft on the terrorists). Both were replaced by Republicans.
  • Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle lost his majority that November too, then lost his own seat to a Republican.
  • Republicans Allen and Santorum lost their seats to anti-war Democrats in 2006.
  • Joe Lieberman was kicked out of his party and almost lost his seat.
  • Bill Frist lost the Republican majority and quit.
  • John Edwards resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Zell Miller resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • John Breaux resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Fritz Hollings resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell resigned and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Republican Peter Fitzgerald resigned and was replaced by Barack Obama
  • John Kerry lost his bid for the presidency - his famous last words "I voted for it before I voted against it".
So 11 of the Senators voting for the Iraq war ultimately lost their seats to a member of the opposite party. That doesn't seem like the electorate was rewarding anyone who was "wrong on the war".

Beinart cites the primary loss of Howard Dean in 2004 as proof of his point. But while Dean surged briefly in the polls, he was only 1 of 10 candidates for the nomination and was always considered a long-shot. Famously pro-war Joe Lieberman was the original front runner and ended up in "a 3-way tie for 3rd place" before he dropped out of the race. Edwards and Kerry weren't helped much by their votes for the war, either.

And of course Barack Obama, a man who spoke publicly against the war at a time when it was considered political suicide, was a rare ray of sunshine for the Democratic party in 2004.

Did I mention that he's the one Beinart thinks has a problem?

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