The tragic lamentations howled by the septuagenarians who make up the remnants of Code Pink may never fully dissipate, but the majority of the once ascendant anti-war left seems to have dissolved.
And why wouldn’t they? Theirs was a movement which once bestrode the political and media complex with unmatched influence. The movement culminated in the toppling of Hillary Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee and the election of Barack Obama, the anti-war candidate, to the White House in 2008.
Just six short years later, it is Barack Obama who is deploying the American war machine in a preemptive engagement against Islamist threats in the Middle East. A president who twice campaigned on policies disengagement and retrenchment from the Middle East has utterly abandoned his own stated policy preferences. The sense of hopelessness among anti-war liberals is palpable.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank recently made the trek to a rather sad anti-war protest outside the White House that was attended by a meager 22 true believers.
“It was the latest display of how Obama has neutralized the left,” Milbank observed.
This inconsistency on the part of the supposedly principled left is all too much for The Federalist’s David Harsanyi to bear.
“It should be noted, of course, that there are voices on the Left expressing apprehension about the legality and aims of the mission,” he wrote. “The problem is that most often these are the same voices – from The New York Times editorial board to Joan Walsh – that have been justifying every unilateral executive action this administration takes or threatens to take. Their sudden reverence for process and constitutionality is about as credible as John Boehner’s lawsuit to stop executive abuse.”
Dovishness is embedded in the DNA of the American left, and they can ignore their instincts for only so long. Often reliable leading indicators of public opinion, America’s elected representatives are beginning to show the familiar contours of debates over the use of force are returning to the forefront.
A story in the Associated Press published Wednesday detailed how Republican candidates are running on the threats to national security which a Democratic president is addressing though military force. Democrats, meanwhile, are dismissing national security as an election year issue despite the fact that a president of their party is waging what polls suggest is a popular military campaign.
Something is wrong here.
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent submits that the advantage Republicans are receiving from the revived “security mom” constituency, which is narrowing the critical gender gap among women which traditionally favors Democrats, has become key pillar of their midterm strategy.
“Many Republicans support Obama’s approach to ISIS, but they have endorsed it grudgingly, as a mere step in the right direction, while saying they don’t think it goes far enough, in order to be able to continue hitting Democrats on the issue,” Sargent wrote.
He appeared to dismiss the claim submitted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that Congress does not want to craft a resolution authorizing force on its own because it is the executive that will execute the mission in Iraq and Syria and it should be the executive which defines the parameters of that mission. Sargent later clarified that Congress could, and should, hold its own vote on the authorization of force.
Harsanyi agrees. “Obama must feel more emboldened than ever in following through on his happy authoritarian talk,” he wrote. “If war isn’t worth a vote, what is?”
Regardless, the matter will come to a head soon enough. Obama’s war powers request will not outlast the 113th Congress, and he will have to make the case or extended and legally sanctioned action in the Middle East. As Milbank suggested, the anti-Obama left is a spent force, but the anti-war left is merely demoralized. Nothing revitalizes passivity as a political force like a war – much less a preemptive war of choice — and that is precisely what Obama is waging.