The Iraq War And The Damaged Legacy Of The GOP

The Iraq War did significant damage to the legacy of the Republican Party.


Ross Douthat argues in today’s New York Times that the Iraq War is largely the reason for the Republican Party’s current problems as well as the fact that Democrats are dominating national politics today:

Obama didn’t just benefit from the zeal that entered the Democratic Party through the antiwar movement; he also benefited from the domestic policy vacuum left by Bush’s Iraq-ruined second term. The Bush White House’s “compassionate conservatism” was the last major Republican attempt to claim the political center — to balance traditional conservative goals on taxes and entitlement reform with more bipartisan appeals on education, health care, immigration and poverty. And as long as the Republican Party was successfully hovering near the middle, the Democrats had to hover there as well.

But once Bush’s foreign policy credibility collapsed, his domestic political capital collapsed as well: moderates stopped working with him, conservatives rebelled, and the White House’s planned second-term agenda — Social Security reform, tax and health care reform, immigration overhaul — never happened.

This collapse, and the Republican Party’s failure to recover from it, enabled the Democrats to not only seize the center but push it leftward, and advance far bolder proposals than either Al Gore or John Kerry had dared to offer. The Iraq war didn’t just make Obama possible — it made Obamacare possible as well.

Nor is it a coincidence that these liberal policy victories have been accompanied by liberal gains in the culture wars. True, there’s no necessary connection between the Bush administration’s Iraq floundering and, say, the right’s setbacks in the gay-marriage debate. But cultural change is a complicated thing, built on narratives and symbols and intuitive leaps.


In a similar way, even though Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney weren’t culture warriors or evangelical Christians, in the popular imagination their legacy of incompetence has become a reason to reject social conservatism as well. Just as the post-Vietnam Democrats came to be regarded as incompetent, wimpy and dangerously radical all at once, since 2004 the Bush administration’s blunders — the missing W.M.D., the botched occupation — have been woven into a larger story about Youth and Science and Reason and Diversity triumphing over Old White Male Faith-Based Cluelessness.

Of all the Iraq war’s consequences for our politics, it’s this narrative that may be the war’s most lasting legacy, and the most difficult for conservatives to overcome.

Douthat isn’t alone in making this claim. Over the past week,  as the nation has marked the 10th Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, and as pundits have chimed in to discuss the matter, several people on the right have reached similar conclusions. The Washington Examiner’s  Philip A. Klein argued last week, for example, that the Iraq War essentially made Obama’s election, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act possible. On Friday in The Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan mirrored the arguments that Douthat makes in his column by detailing the damage that the war has done to the GOP’s reputation in the foreign policy arena as well as domestically, especially among younger voters. The most interesting take on the whole issue, though, comes from Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative, who analogizes the GOP’s position in the post-Iraq world to the problems that the Democratic Party had for decades after the Vietnam War:

America has been at war in Afghanistan for the entire adult life of any voter under 30. For still younger Americans, every living memory is of a country with troops in combat overseas—and for what? The wars haven’t brought prosperity: just the opposite. They haven’t reaffirmed traditional sex roles or Christianity or family values, all of which are challenged by veterans coming home with missing limbs or mangled minds. The cultural resonances of this decade of war are the opposite of those of Vietnam; they’re closer to those of Great Britain after World War I. Britain, too, won its war and wondered what that meant.

Republicans split over Bush’s wars as deeply as Democrats once split over Vietnam. The raw numbers aren’t similar—the antiwar right is not as numerous as the antiwar left once was—but the philosophical depth of the divide is as great. And it’s a generation gap. Boomer Republicans are still refighting old wars—Benghazi is the new Khe Sanh, and they’ve adopted Israel not only as avatar of the lost South Vietnam but as symbol of the Providential favor and military virtue our nation lost in the 1960s. Yet even the younger evangelicals—let alone Ron Paul’s youthful supporters and the neo-traditionalist “crunchy cons”—don’t buy it.

The GOP never learned to talk to the post-Vietnam generation in the first place; over the last decade, it compounded the problem by launching wars that, far from resolving the unfinished business of the Vietnam era, only made clear that those who are refighting the conflicts of that time are oblivious to today’s realities.

While Republicans wage a war on the past, Barack Obama has staked claim to the future—in the same way that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan once did. The reputation for competence in wielding power that Nixon (before Watergate) and Reagan accumulated now accrues to Obama’s advantage. He brought the troops home from Iraq—however reluctantly—and is on course to end the war in Afghanistan next year. His foreign policy, like Nixon’s and Reagan’s, involves plenty of military force.  But like those Republicans, the incumbent Democrat has avoided debacles of the sort that characterized the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush.


The Republican Party may not be able to escape its McGovern phase, even if Democrats screw up (as they will) and we briefly get a Republican Carter. The party and the ideology soaked into it have lost their reputation for competence, and they’ve lost the emotional resonances that come with being the party of America: victory, prosperity, normality. Instead the resonances that come from the War on Terror are of a party and an era marked by resentment, recession, and insecurity. Although the party still sees Ronald Reagan when it looks in the mirror, what the rest of the country sees is George W. Bush—much as post-Vietnam Democrats continued to think of themselves as the party of Franklin Roosevelt when in the minds of most Americans they had become the party of Johnson and McGovern.

Until the Republican Party can come to grips with its failure, the Democrats will be the party Americans trust to govern.

Now, obviously, history does not always repeat itself exactly, and there are plenty of differences between the post-Vietnam era and what it did to the Democratic Party and the post-Iraq era and what has happened to the Republican Party. For one thing, it’s fairly obvious that the problems that the GOP faces can be traced to more than just the Iraq War. Like it or not, there was a Republican in office when the economy began to collapse in 2007-2008, and even though President Obama has been in office for four years now, polls continue to show that the public places primary blame for the continued weak state of the economy on George W. Bush. Other polls show that the public has an overwhelmingly negative view of Congressional Republicans. Additionally, the recently concluded Presidential race demonstrated quite aptly the problems that the GOP has with a wide variety of demographic groups ranging from younger voters to women to minorities. In most cases, those problems have more to do with the policy positions that Republicans take on issues such as same-sex marriage, birth control, and immigration than they do with the Iraq War.

Nonetheless, I think that both Douthat and McCarthy, along with Klein and Noonan, are making some excellent points, and providing some guidance for a Republican Party that is still engaged in a conversation about how to recreate itself in the light of two consecutive Presidential Election losses in a row. For reasons that only they can explain, Republicans still don’t seem to understand just how unpopular the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, and specifically its policies regarding the Iraq War specifically and intervention in foreign countries more specifically. While the American public was willing to support an aggressive posture toward Al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11th attacks, it’s long been the case that there has never been much support for a militaristic foreign policy, at least not since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, President Clinton’s adventures in the Balkans, which I still consider to have been ill-advised, were not exactly heavily endorsed by public opinion.  One reflection of that fact can be seen in the positive reception that George W. Bush’s comments during the 2000 Presidential Campaign criticizing a foreign policy based on nation-building received. Sadly, when he became President, Bush didn’t exactly adhere to that rhetoric.

It’s easy, and in many cases too easy, to point to a single factor to explain something as complicated as the reason why the Republican Party finds itself in its current predicament. Nonetheless, one cannot deny that the most mistaken and unpopular war in American history has had a significant impact on the party that initiated it.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Iraq War, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Douthat’s kind of an idiot. I don’t think Mitt Romney lost a single vote because of Iraq.

    The problem with the GOP is not the Bombs wing of the party but the Money and Jesus wings. This is a party that has done everything in its power to alienate women, blacks, latinos and the young. This is Douthat and the other Money and Jesus Republicans trying to throw the neocons under the bus. I’m happy to see them under the bus, but that’s not what’s ailing the GOP. Demographics and education are ailing the GOP. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are ailing the GOP. But the Douthats of the world can’t get their heads around the fact that they belong to a party that enjoys waving fetuses in the face of desperate women, or that despises anyone with dark skin, or that claims the nation’s first black president cannot possibly be a real American, or that devotes itself to making sure the rich get richer and the poor get screwed.

    The GOP is a nasty, ignorant, self-centered bunch of greed-heads and religious nuts. It is also home to people who just like to blow things up real good, but pinning the blame on that crowd is ridiculous. It ain’t the mote, it’s the beam.

  2. @michael reynolds:

    I don’t think that Douthat is arguing that. at all. I think he’s arguing that the Iraq War damaged the GOP so significantly that it has undercut whatever arguments the party might make on other issues.

    I encourage you to read the McCarthy piece that I linked about the analogies between Vietnam and Iraq. I think he’s on to something.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In a similar way, even though Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney weren’t culture warriors or evangelical Christians, in the popular imagination their legacy of incompetence has become a reason to reject social conservatism as well.

    Right Ross… Keep telling yourself that the reason we don’t trust Republicans with budgets or economies or women’s uterus’s, or Social Security, or Medicare. or Medicaid, or guns, or….

    It is all because of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and the Iraq War.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I think Iraq certainly plays a part. I think post Vietnam the Democrat’s real problem wasn’t the war as much as the hippies – they scared the hell out of people. The Republicans have the Fundies and the Tea Party.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I read the McCarthy piece yesterday and it is an excellent analysis. Douthat’s not so much.

  6. @Ron Beasley:

    I think the analogy between the radical left in the post-Vietnam era and the radical right today is really quite apt. Good point.

  7. @Ron Beasley:

    I think McCarthy’s piece was far better than Douthat’s column. I used Douthat as a jumping off point, but one must remember that he, like all columnists, writes in a limited amount of space.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    What someone should tell Douthat, Noonan, and the other NYC/DC establishment Republicans is “Who Cares.” Do they really believe that if the Republicans convert to the Jeffersonian foreign policy advocated by nitpicking conservatives like Daniel Larison that one black, Latino, public sector employee academic, homosexual, or person on welfare will change their vote for the Republicans.

    The Republican Party was headed to the garbage pile of history due to the changing demographic and economic environment of the U.S. All the foreign policy failures of the Bush II Administration did was speed up the process by about 20 years.

    Also, the idea that the Democrats can screw up enough to lose a presidential election and a “Republican Carter” will be elected is laughable. Does anyone really believe that the voters in the party of Marion Barry, Kwame Kilpatrick, Shelia Dixon, and Rod Blagojevich are really going to vote for a Republican candidate if the Democrats screw up.

    The policy discussion that writers like Douthat seem to be avoiding is how can people who are conservatives affect policy and governance in the future as the U.S. heads toward having one dominant policy party. Judging by the current situation in California or Illinois, the Republicans will just give up trying to change the government.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Makes you wonder how 2010 happened. A wipeout of epic proportions. And how exactly did Bush get reelected? With simultaneous gains in Congress to boot. Not that details matter to airheaded journalists (BIRM) such as Douthat.

    Speaking of political legacies, black unemployment is twice that of white unemployment and last November blacks voted 93-7 to reelect Obama. Poverty and crime are rampant in black circles. Dropouts. Teen pregnancies. Blight. Drugs. Dependence on the government. The black family utterly has been destroyed.

    That’s the legacy of the post-LBJ, post-“war on poverty” Democrat Party. Not that anyone in media-academe circles will care. Hell, lock step voting for Democrats by blacks is something over which in a ghastly irony they’re quite proud. It’s a sickness, not an ideology.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    I definitely agree with Douthat’s notion that the War in Iraq – and the poor judgment and outright dishonesty of those whose in the Bush Administration who wanted that war and sold it on the basis of a false pretext – will haunt Republicans for a generation. How can anyone doubt that?

    Similar to 1968 and LBJ? I think so. LBJ went all in on Vietnam, and got the endorsement for huge troop commitments he needed based on a trumped up incident (Gulf of Tonkin). Only when that war began to look as if there was no end in sight, did the public lose confidence, and turned to Richard Nixon, who promised an end to the war. The public blamed LBJ for getting us there, and blamed Democratic dissidents for losing the war. Lose/Lose. The Democratic Party paid a political price for a generation to come. Only with the election of Bill Clinton 24 years later did Democrats stop wandering, lost in the desert.

    It’s a different time, to be sure, however, I hope that Republicans remain lost in the desert for many years to come.

  11. kb says:

    I think he’s arguing that the Iraq War damaged the GOP so significantly

    As opposed to what?
    Gay marriage?
    Climate change?
    economics ?
    Tax policy?

    lets face it , any gop policy which relies on the voter being a red state christian(and thats pretty much all of them) is a loser for the GOP.

  12. Mr. Prosser says:
  13. Tony W says:

    I take issue with the idea that the ACA is pulling the country “Leftward” – a mandate to do business with the private sector essentially guaranteeing both a market and profits to the insurance company lobbyists?

    Obamacare feels more like Medicare Part D to me. Obama won because he claimed the center-right, after the Republican loonies overplayed their hand and tried to move the country even further right. Now the wingnuts are trying to convince us that Obamacare (and presumably Medicare Part D if it had taken effect under Obama) are Socialism or Communism or other words they don’t understand.

  14. superdestroyer says:

    @Tony W:

    All of the subsidies will pull the country to the left. Taking any Actuarial science out of health insurance and just making it a version of costs sharing is a move to the left. The detailed government mandates such as birth controls or no copays for annual checkups is moving to the left.

    The real leftward push of ACA is that it is designed to fail so that the Democrats will be positioned to implement single payer. As the Democrats become more dominant, they will wait for a period of lower unemployment to implement single payer and put the health insurance companies out of business. The only problem the Democrats have now is that they do not want to be responsbile for laying off the 500K people who work in health insurance.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    The McCarthy piece is well-written and wrong. Or right in part, I should say, but not accurate as a diagnosis.

    Many other things happened concurrent with Vietnam. For those not old enough to remember, the war was quite popular with youth and accepted for the most part by the country generally until about 1967. The Beatles happened in 1964. The Summer of Love happened in 1967. We’d had the JFK assassination and the MLK assassination in 1968. We’d had race riots. We’d had American cities burning and armored personnel carriers in the streets. Those events happened for reasons of their own, not because of Vietnam or opposition to same.

    In 1967 the war was still polling around 50% overall (depending as always on your choice of polls) and it was polling far better among youth. It was old folks who opposed the war at that point.

    LBJ was in office during a really rather unpleasant and disruptive period in our history — part of which was Vietnam. It was an era of integration, riots, sweeping cultural changes, women’s rights and a disturbing run of political assassinations.

    But what changed the electoral math most was race. Alabama didn’t go Republican because of Vietnam, it went Republican because of race. The GOP embraced the Dixiecrats that the Democrats had dumped. That turned the south red as LBJ predicted it would. It’s worth noting that Humphrey — following a world-class disaster of a convention, and following the assassination of his strongest Democratic opponent, and saddled with LBJ’s entire term of office — came within a hair of beating NIxon. Nixon beat him by .7% of the vote, 301 to 191 in the EC. The difference was George Wallace who took most of the Confederacy.

    By 1972 Nixon was the incumbent who had continued and expanded the Vietnam war and won in a landslide. The difference, aside from incumbency? There was no Wallace running. McGovern gave up 2 million Humphrey votes but Nixon gained 16 million votes over 1968. The Wallace vote had been 10 million votes in 1968. McGovern lost because he was a lousy candidate and because Nixon was the incumbent and because the racist vote found its new home in the GOP.

    But all of that is given cursory treatment at most by McCarthy. Because “blame Iraq” is better than “blame our racist core.” One can be pinned on Mr. Bush, the other goes to the party itself.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Inartfully written sentence above implies that JFK was assassinated in 1968. Obviously no.

  17. al-Ameda says:


    The real leftward push of ACA is that it is designed to fail so that the Democrats will be positioned to implement single payer.

    That would one of the great billiard shots of all time.

    As president, you would stake your presidency on a plan – ACA, – that you know to be fatally flawed, yet you move ahead knowing somehow, that its failure will lead to passage of Single Payer, long after your presidency.

    I suppose that Obama went ahead on ACA because he consulted the LaToya Jackson Psychic Friends Network, just be sure he knew that ACA would be a failure, right?

  18. Ron Beasley says:


    :The real leftward push of ACA is that it is designed to fail so that the Democrats will be positioned to implement single payer.

    I have a friend who sells health insurance plans to businesses. She told me that her company is planning for Medicare for all and a switch to Medicare Advantage plans.

  19. C Croce says:

    WOW! I didn’t realize that wars were about bringing prosperity and preserving cultural norms. What a bunch of nonsense from Douthat and McCarthy! Sily me, I thought wars were about national security. Oh well, I suppose one leans something new everyday/sarc

    Here is the problem the GOP has: the stool is down to one leg: social conservatives. The fiscal conservatives left when compassionate conservatism turnedout to mean more federal expansion, more federal programs, more entitlement spending. The hawks have left because of the increasingly isolationist rhetoric coming out of the GOP. So the GOP is left having to defend policies and stances that put it at odds with modern America.

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    If the remaining business for health insurance is Medicare Advantage and Boutique policies for the rich, then health insurance will be a cottage industry. The real contract will be in administering Medicare for All much like contractors operate Tricare for the Department of Defense or ChampVA for Veterans Affairs. However, those business are very different than administering health insurance in the private market.

  21. Woody says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Thanks for writing this, Mr Reynolds. Very sharp analysis.

    Digby at Hullabaloo wrote that Douthat’s thesis was vastly oversimplified – that the GOP’s woes also stem from the dumbest scandalmongering in history (the Clinton impeachment – in which the Liberal Media played a starring role) and the 2000 election. I’m not on board with the 2000 election (it’s just not as controversial to the general public), but I’d replace it with the incredible financial fraud of the aughts.

  22. Tony W says:


    Democrats will be positioned to implement single payer.

    I certainly hope so. Private insurance should be a supplemental offering, perhaps employer sponsored, but not necessary for basic life-saving care.

    Now back to the Iraq war and its impact on the GOP!

  23. superdestroyer says:

    @Tony W:

    Medicare for all does not work with supplemental unless the insurance is just to pay deductibles. Remember, physicians who currently accept medicare have to accept the flat rate from the government. Medicare for all will lead to lower pay for all healthcare workers and will lead to large number of them being laid off. Medicare for all will make healthcare employment very similar to working for the public schools. Low pay, high turnover and something the elite avoid except to resume build.

    One of the long term consequences of the Iraq war and the U.S. having one dominant political party will be the shrinking of the middle class as healthcare, energy, and transportation all have to take lower pay.

  24. superdestroyer says:

    One of the off impacts of the collapse of the Republicans will be the paleo-cons like Daniel Larison will get the foreign policy that they want (semi-isolation and a Jeffersonian hands-off approach) but not for the reason that they want it.

    When comprehensive immigraiton reform passes and the government social safety net expands, there will be no money or support for any international adventure. It does not how many massacres or genocides occur in the world, new immigrants and welfare recipients will be against intervention. Remember, in the future, every dollar spent one defense or international adventures is a dollar that cannot be spent on social welfare and make work government jobs.

  25. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Vietnam was a costly war to the Democrats not because the Americans at the time opposed bombing and killing people in the Third World, but because the United States was a losing a war, for the first time. George Wallace ran on a platform that defended the use of nukes in Vietnam, because most people at the time did not understand why the United States was losing the war. It was also costly because Johnson wanted to expand the welfare state and war curbed his political and financial capital to do it.

    It was also costly because it fragmented the old New Deal coalition between Anti-war liberals and the white working class. George McGovern did not have the support of the AFL-CIO, for instance. One could argue that Alabama was competitive in the state level for Democrats until 1994, and that even with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could still be competitive there in Presidential Elections with more moderate candidates. No one knows.

    Regarding Iraq, I know that well. Before Iraq, everyone outside the United States thought that the United States was invincible. After Iraq people began to see the United States as military vulnerable and economically decadent. People began to write articles talking the downfall of America. I imagine that all that casualties also affected how Americans sees themselves, and that affected how people sees the GOP.

    p.S: The Neocons deserves to be throw under the bus. Not a rhetorical bus, but under a real one.

  26. Andre Kenji says:


    Medicare for all will lead to lower pay for all healthcare workers

    That´s an asset, not a liability.

  27. superdestroyer says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Not if you a healthcare worker. Healthcare is one of the segments of the economy that produces middle class workers and can produce well compensated workers without going to an Ivy League university. So, if healthcare worker pay is cut, there will be fewer middle class workers.
    Given the cut backs in healthcare and the cut backs in defense spending, there is no reason for President Obama to push for more STEM degrees because there will be fewer jobs for them.

  28. superdestroyer says:

    I always find it odd that progressives always claim that the 1960’s was the decade that put the south in the republican column when Carter won almost all of the southern states and it was not until the 1980’s or 90’s that most of the southern states were electing their first Republican senators or governors.

    I suspect that the failures of the Carter Administration and the ham-handedness of the Democrats in handling civil right initiatives like affirmative action put the southern states in the Republican column.

  29. Unsympathetic says:

    I don’t think the Iraq war changed anything.

    Rather, the sell of the Iraq war is an “emperor has no clothes” moment.. it is an irrefutable point showing how incapable Republicans are at governance. No amount of spin, no amount of rejecting fact because some person isn’t “serious” can change the fail that is Iraq.

    For the war to have actually changed something would imply that there was a point in time at which the Republican party based their policies on objective reality.

  30. superdestroyer says:


    How soon they forget the first gulf war.

  31. michael reynolds says:


    Carter won the south because he was a southerner and because in the wake of Nixon the Republicans looked particularly bad.

    It’s true that it’s hard to pinpoint any particular moment and say “at this moment everything changed,” especially given 3rd parties and landslides and extraneous factors (Watergate, the Iran hostages.) But in the 50’s the south was solidly blue and by the 80’s it was solidly red. The trend was clearly from blue to red as civil rights became an issue and as the GOP perfected its racist outreach with Nixon’s southern strategy and later Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

    It’s also a complicating factor defining what we mean by “the south” because the major southern states, TX and FL, are different from the cotton belt states.

    In 1964, the first election where civil rights was beginning to be front and center the cotton belt went solidly GOP despite an LBJ landslide. In 1968 it went solidly Wallace. In 1972 it went solidly Nixon. In 1976 Carter took the south as a home boy. 1980 to present the Dems have taken a handful of southern states, but it’s been GOP all the way.

    In other words, over a roughly 30 year span the region went from solidly Dem to solidly GOP. That 30 year span coincides with the modern civil rights era which began in some ways with Humphrey’s 1948 speech.

    It’s an interesting question what would have happened had the GOP not decided to sh!t on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and pervert their party in order to attract racist goons like you. But karma’s a bitch, and now the GOP is paying the price.

  32. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @superdestroyer: No they don’t. My parents carried private “fee for service” coverage that paid whatever part of the fees that Medicare didn’t pay. Where they ended up getting hosed was in the things that neither one payed for–prescription drug coverage, ambulance service, etc. When I asked them to consider going to an HMO, they rejected the idea–they didn’t want to get “roped” in to a socialistic scheme that was going to turn America into Great Britain.

  33. Andre Kenji says:

    @superdestroyer: Healthcare does not exist to sustain a middle class, but to provide healthcare.

  34. Part of the problem is that Douhat refers to Bush’s agenda as Social Security “reform.” It was privatization, which the public soundly rejected. The fact that he can’t even be honest about what the Republicans were attempting speaks volumes as to why they are tanking in the polls.

  35. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana have all had Democratic governors since 2000. To claim that the south become solidly Red in the 1980;s is laughable. What you seem to really be saying is that whites are much more solidly Repubican in those states versus in other states where white seem to divide evenly between the two parties.

    However, what would the Democrats offer middle class white voters in Alabama or MIssissippi. They ran those states for over a century and there was little sign that the Democrats were anymore competent than the Republicans. Voting for Democrats in the southern states would give a lot more power to black politicians who are far to the left of the average white voter.

  36. superdestroyer says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    What your parents have is Medigap insurance. What no private insurance can do is offer to reimburse care provider an additional fee so that the physicians will take their medicare eligible customer over other patients.

    From a providers point of view, all medicare patients are the same because the provider is reimbursed the same for a service. In healthcare the medicare reimbursement is the next to lowest reimbursement after medicaid. If providers are receiving nothing but the lowest reimbursement rate, then everyone takes a pay cut and many people will be laid off. If reimbursements are lower then healthcare management becomes a total focus on lowering costs and lowering headcount.

  37. superdestroyer says:

    @Andre Kenji: ‘

    Healthcare is 1/6 of the economy. If you lower pay and lower employment, then single payer affects the rest of the economy. If people in middle size and small cities are laid off, there is no alternative for the same pay or benefits. Medicare for all will cause another round of real estate defaults and will lead to a higher level of unemployment. And please do not say that they can all find jobs in clean energy or technology. There are few jobs in those fields and the laid off gas and oil workers and defense workers will be in line ahead of the healthcare workers.

    What everyone should just admit and one of the fallouts of the Iraq War is that politics will eventually be about entitlements and how to pay for them. How will want to go into politics in the future when the main job is being the tax collector for the welfare state.

  38. john personna says:

    Iraq was a huge wedge issue for me, a life-long (moderate, socially liberal) Republican. I doubt that I am unique.

    And I suspect long-time liberals are going to have less intuition on this impact than someone, you know, who might have actually voted Republican for one office or another in the last ten years.

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    Let’s remember that it wasn’t “the war IN Iraq” — as if there was an ongoing war that we just happened to jump into.

    It was the war ON Iraq.

  40. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: You act as though a single payer system or a National Health Care system is impossible.

    It isn’t. Would you please go live in Japan for some years before making such silly comments? I’ve actually lived in countries with national health services and I have to say that it’s a bloody sight better than the mess we have in the US. The reason the Republicans aren’t getting any traction on “repealing Obamacare” is because they have proposed absolutely nothing in its place to fix the problems. So we get rid of Obamacare and go back to cherry-picking by insurance companies, murder by spreadsheet, and all the other reasons why Obamacare got created.

    It isn’t a left-right thing. One side has suggested a solution, the other side hasn’t. Which side do you think the American populace will support?

  41. Rafer Janders says:

    Would you please go live in Japan for some years before making such silly comments?

    Or, you know, Canada. It’s not as if we don’t have an example of a successful national health system in a prosperous developed economy literally over the border.

  42. steve s says:

    As opposed to what?
    Gay marriage?
    Climate change?
    economics ?
    Tax policy?

    I’ve lived all my life in the southeast. The GOP is the party of the southeast now. Angry, greedy, bigoted, low info white christians with sh*tty values.

    Good luck with that, GOP.

  43. Unsympathetic says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Or Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii. You know, the second state in the US with fully socialized healthcare.. after Massachusetts, of course.

    Obama was also born there, so this inconvenient fact will be ignored by Real Murkins.

  44. @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis:

    I think the analogy between the radical left in the post-Vietnam era and the radical right today is really quite apt. Good point.

    The difference, of course, is that the hippies didn’t control the Democratic Party at any point in time (Interesting historical note: the hippies protesting outside the 1968 Democratic Convention were outside of the convention). I’m open to the possibility that Democrats in the 1970s were generally given to impractical programs, but folks like Sam Nunn and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were there all along. Whereas the GOP was and remains George W. Bush from top to bottom.

    The party’s resolute unseriousness on domestic policy was most evident in its destruction of our surpluses and the insistence that “deficits don’t matter”, but was notable in most other fields too. (“Just get me a f—ing faith-based thing!”). There was roughly zero contemporaneous GOP pushback. He was “the movement and the cause”, in Bill Kristol’s phrase. Over the course of his presidency, Pres. Bush rarely received less than 80% approval from self-described “conservative Republicans”, since rebranded as the “Tea Party”.

    The problem is worse than that the Iraq invasion eventually led to a negative image of the GOP. It’s that the Iraq invasion gave Americans an accurate view how the GOP works.

    What’s more, the people running and rooting for the party view the party’s negative image as an unfortunate happenstance rooted in insufficiently vigorous & modern marketing efforts. In reality, though, most Americans share a deep, well-founded suspicion of the party’s rhetoric, policy proposals, leaders, and rank-and-file supporters.

  45. @Doug Mataconis: I disagree. There were many other offences of the Bush administration to single out just the Iraq War as the major cause celebre of the left. In fact, I would argue that the totality of the Bush years made electing a Republican in 2008 a toxic proposition.

    Despite that, and with a Vice Presidental candidate who made Stockdale seem lucid, Barack Obama still only won 2008 by under seven points. That seems small considering just how poorly Republicans had run the country during the Bush years, well beyond the Iraq War. In fact, I’m sure a lot of the anti-war voters didn’t even consider the effect war spending had on our economy.

  46. Andre Kenji says:

    @superdestroyer: For the rest of the 5/6 of the economy that is not healthcare healthcare is not a source of income, but an expense. If you lower the spending on healthcare job creators and consumers are going to have more money to spend and invest on the real economy. You are using the broken window fallacy.

    I can say to you that outside of the US doctors have a comfortable life, but they are not millionaires. That´s a big part of the problem, the inefficiencies of the US Healthcare system are a toll to the economy, not so different from taxes.

  47. Rafer Janders says:


    The difference, of course, is that the hippies didn’t control the Democratic Party at any point in time (Interesting historical note: the hippies protesting outside the 1968 Democratic Convention were outside of the convention). I’m open to the possibility that Democrats in the 1970s were generally given to impractical programs, but folks like Sam Nunn and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were there all along. Whereas the GOP was and remains George W. Bush from top to bottom.

    A few months ago, James Joyner and I got into an argument over James’ claim that the Democrats reformed when they stopped nominating, in his words, “hard-left candidates.” When I responded that this was complete nonsense and challenged him to give me examples of any actual ‘hard-left” candidates nominated for president by the Democrats, he gave me….Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale and George McGovern. To which I responded that if those men were “hard-left” than the term as he was using it had no meaning whatsoever.

  48. socraticsilence says:

    I think Iraq is certainly part of it, and perhaps the most important part, but I think the effect of Iraq is a bit overrated in the Beltway Dominated media because its the one area where they can admit they were wrong– remember Pundits on both the right and the center-right thought Rove’s 2004 decision to ignite the base by making Gay Marriage a hot-button issue was savvy, whereas today it looks like the ultimate example of trading short term gains for long-term devastation (immigration reform and opposing Civil Rights for African-Americans while myopic in the long-term at least gained the GOP medium and for the latter generational political advantages) – it won them the presidency in 2004 but wedded them to a position that is going to make maintaining the normal shift in party identification as voters age almost impossible, young people’s attitudes towards taxation and spending might shift as they themselves move up in the income scale but no one turns 35 and becomes a bigot and make no mistake vehemently (now) and/or passively (soon) opposing full civil rights for LGBT Americans will mark the GOP as bigots to younger voters.

    The worst thing Iraq did was undermine the GOP’s reputation for competence, that this was re-inforced in 2005 by Katrina only made the problem worse– it shifted the perception first in the public and then among the punditry (remember the pundits thought the Schiavo thing was a win for the GOP) from the GOP being uncaring but professional to that of a party of ideological zealots incapable of responsibly governing.

    Social Security reform wasn’t going to happen, literally the only moment in the last 50 years where it would have been remotely possible was right after 9/11 if Bush had sold it as necessary to pay for increased military spending or some such BS about shared sacrifice.

  49. SoWhat says:

    I love all the historical revision going on now.

    No one mentions that GWB went before the UN for approval and got it for enforcing the multitude of existing resolutions.

    No one mentions that GWB actually got approval from congress—something that would never cross Obama’s mind. In the House, 82 of 209 Dems voted for war; in the Senate 29 of 50 Dems voted for it—including current media darling, Hillary Clinton. Will her vote hurt her in ’16 the way it did in ’08 when the leftwing of the Dem Party rejected her in favor of Barack Obama, who was an Illinois senate backbencher in ’02..

    Also, no one mentions or quotes the many prominent Democrats during the Clinton administration who all said Saddam had WM; Kennedy, Kerry, Clinton, etc. a who’s who of powerful Dems said Saddam was dangerous and needed to be stopped..

    That blogs like OTB march lockstep with leftwing conventional wisdom isn’t exactly shocking, but when even the establishment press can’t bring itself to tell the truth after a decade and two-term Obama, it is a sad day for “journalism”.

  50. john personna says:


    GWB faked out the UN (and many more people) when he gamed the UN inspection process.

    Do you simply not remember that there were UN inspectors there in Iraq, gaining access to more places, looking for weapons of mass destruction, and that GWB had them pulled out so that he could start his war?

  51. john personna says:


    Seriously, if you really want to know how this worked see this:

    On the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, Renee Montagne talks to Hans Blix, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, who’s mission in Iraq was ended by the invasion. The invasion’s aim was to rid Iraq of its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But it turns out there were none.

  52. Spartacus says:


    Also, no one mentions or quotes the many prominent Democrats during the Clinton administration who all said Saddam had WM; Kennedy, Kerry, Clinton, etc. a who’s who of powerful Dems said Saddam was dangerous and needed to be stopped..

    That blogs like OTB march lockstep with leftwing conventional wisdom isn’t exactly shocking . .

    You apparently don’t visit many left-of-center blogs because the past two weeks have plenty of entries with Bill Clinton’s famous quote, and many of these “left-of-center” bloggers have admitted that their initial support of the war was a mistake. Your problem seems to be that you believe that anyone who isn’t a Republican is a leftwinger. The GOP has moved so far to the extreme right that the Democratic party is now the home for moderates as well as people on the left.

  53. john personna says:


    On that:

    In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today.

    The outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the GOP what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.

  54. Spartacus says:


    Healthcare is 1/6 of the economy. If you lower pay and lower employment, then single payer affects the rest of the economy.

    but just a few sentences later, SD writes:

    [Who] will want to go into politics in the future when the main job is being the tax collector for the welfare state.

    You’re absolutely right that (1) there’s no way for the country to spend less on healthcare without spending less money to pay people and companies who work in that sector, and (2) the price government pays for healthcare is lower than the price individuals in the private marketplace pay. As obvious as these things are, many people on the Right are completely clueless about these two basic facts. They believe that healthcare prices would be lower if we simply got government out of the market for healthcare. They also believe we can lower the amount we spend on healthcare while continuing to pay doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers the same amount of money they’ve been getting.

    I’m glad to see you recognize that a large government presence in the healthcare marketplace actually drives prices down.

    Of course, it’s rather odd that you continuously rail against the “welfare state” even though you believe society should continue to pay more for healthcare than necessary just so that people who work in the healthcare sector can be paid higher wages.

  55. Satin Cat says:


    The GOP owned the war. Sure they bullied some Dems into supporting it but the public rightly blamed them. (I still remember Powell’s performance in front of the UN.) While Dems aren’t seen as being that great, the GOP is seen as way worse. As for Hillary 2016, nobody is going to care about her Iraq vote any more than voters in 2012 cared about stuff they already knew about Obama. (I wouldn’t bet she’d be the nominee though; it’s absurdly early to tell.)

  56. superdestroyer says:


    HOw many times has anyone on the left mentioned that “bending the cost curve” actually means people will lose their jobs and that those who keep their jobs will receive less pay. No one on the left seems to be thinking bout what happens when healthcare employment becomes similar to working in the public schools and that the elites abandon healthcare as a career field.

    Of course, the left also seem to ignore what happens as defense and transportation begin to fade away as employers. The real question for the future and one of the legacies of Bush II is how low can the workforce participation rate go in the U.S., how high can the unemployment rate go, and will the U.S. establish a some sort of “dole” system to make up for the lack of jobs.

    Of course, anyone who pays attention to economics should realize that progressives are not thinking about any of these issues because those progressives are pushing for open borders and unlimited immigration from the third world.

  57. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: So what’s your solution? Keep inefficient parts of the economy around and continue dumping money into the military-industrial complex to keep people employed, particularly fatcats like Halliburton?

    At least during the Depression the NRA was trying to do something for the ordinary unemployed and wasn’t set up to reward the 1% at the expense of everyone else.

  58. Steve V says:

    I used to contemplate voting republican through the 1990s, but never again. They called me a terrorist hugger for being skeptical about the war. I’ll always remember when I went to lunch with an old friend in 2003 and after I expressed my opposition to the war he wagged his finger in my face and yelled at me, “you hate America!” This may be a relatively micro effect in the grand scheme of electoral effects of the war, but it definitely hardened me against the Republican party, probably for the rest of my life.

  59. george says:


    Of course, the left also seem to ignore what happens as defense and transportation begin to fade away as employers.

    In the case of defense, if you’re solely concerned about employment it’d be a lot cheaper just to give the money directly to the workers, rather than to have them create a lot of unnecessary military equipment or go on unnecessary patrols, etc.

    Spending a hundred million on unnecessary tanks (or worse, tanks that will be used in an unnecessary war because their existence tempts their use) will employ a lot less people than giving even half that money directly to the people you’re intending to employ with it.

    The argument that military spending is necessary to protect our shores is a strong one. The argument that its necessary to keep up employment is a weak one.