Rahm Emanuel’s remarks about the civilian defense corps shows a blindness to a potential political cliff that fellow community organizers are about to lead Democrats over like lemmings. The danger here isn’t that the Obama administration is about to launch a 21st century Land Service program, but that a civilan draft will damage the volunteer military. And a relaunch of any kind of draft may hit the Hope-and-Changers right where they live: in the youth vote.
Let’s deal with the draft itself. What Emanuel proposes is what the nation had for over 30 years, a draft supported by both Republican and Democratic presidents. Like Emanuel’s proposal, draftees had to live in barracks and wear uniforms — but they had to do it for two years. Eventually, the draft got so unpopular that it had to go. When the voting age was lowered to 18, the writing was on the wall.
Unlike the draft, however, this time everyone will apparently serve — which will make it even less popular than the draft. Those who would volunteer to serve their country now would join the military anyway, but three months in a “civilian defense force” might blunt that desire, especially if it’s as pointless as Barack Obama’s description of it. The cost of it will be enormous, and it will end up competing for work that could be done by private-sector efforts that would actually employ younger workers rather than have them work as slaves to the government. If the term is only three months, then most of that time would go into training, leaving little time for productivity.
And how will the nation’s youth react to forced labor camps, which is exactly what Emanuel proposes? Community organizers might think of this as heaven, but the rest of the young adults between 18-25 will resent the hell out of it. After turning out the youth vote in 2008, they may find that 18-25-year-olds will discover their inner libertarians and vote out the Democrats who sold them into indentured servitude against their will.
The draft at least served real security interests of the US over its 30+ years of existence, and it wound up so unpopular that Democrats and Republicans use it to make voters nervous about the plans of the other. I doubt it would take 30 weeks for its return to reach the same depths of resentment among its targets.