Young Democrats are not likely to agree that one violent misdeed after another is somehow acceptable as long as it is performed by the US or in the name of democracy or humanitarianism. Those were the rationales, now revived in defense of Abrams, that produced impunity for the Iraq war, a disastrous war of aggression. Ordinary citizens consistently display more skepticism of military intervention than do foreign policy elites. They are pushing their representatives to express the goal of peace. The election of Omar herself reflects this sentiment. And as a result of grassroots mobilization, the House this week, driven by progressives like Representative Ro Khanna, passed historic legislation to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
The shift in the Democratic base is not limited to one episode. Democrats increasingly favor cutting the defense budget and imposing restraint on America’s military power. While elites assume that the US must maintain global military superiority as a matter of course, less than half of millennials deem it to be a very important goal. That is the lowest support on record, continuing a steady erosion since the second world war. Will political leaders engage the rising generation’s doubts, or will they insist that armed domination is a self-evident virtue for a country that is hurting at home and often spreads violence abroad?
On the Israel-Palestine conflict, it was Omar, more than her party elders, who represented the values of Democratic voters when she criticized the influence of money in politics and applied the point to America’s virtually unconditional support for Israel.