A few days ago I noted here that American popular opinion seems to have shifted sharply against the war in Iraq. This provoked a plaintive – indeed anguished – comment from Mark: “Why oh why did they have to wait until AFTER the election to decide this?” It’s a good question, and Josh Marshall has an interesting take on it over at Talking Points Memo.
Josh first agrees with Kevin Drum that the main reason is quite simple: support has been declining ever since the initial invasion, and the latest numbers simply reflect that trend. But why did pro-war sentiment seem to to hold up during the election campaign? Josh suggests that “during the slugfest of the campaign, supporting Bush just meant supporting the war and this is what people told pollsters when they were asked, because one question was almost a proxy for the other.” Given that “close to 50% of Americans were dead set on voting for President Bush almost no matter what”, it’s clear why support for the war stayed above 50%. (Imagine “how many conservatives […] would have been so staunch in their support for the war if it were being fought under a President Gore or a President Clinton.”) And the result is that “the end of the campaign season has departisanized the war, [and people] are now freer to see the situation in Iraq a bit more on its own terms”.
(Memo to self: During the run-up to the election, I used to read TPM all the time. I think that after November 2nd I tuned out a lot of the political blogs. Bad idea. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.)