Ezra Klein: Sea Change

Sea Change

The New York Times today has a long article on Republican discomfort over the worsening situation in Iraq. Quoth Grover:

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist with close ties to the White House and Mr. Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, said: "If Iraq is in the rearview mirror in the '06 election, the Republicans will do fine. But if it's still in the windshield, there are problems."

It gets worse:

Pollsters and political analysts pointed to basic opinion shifts that accounted for the political change. Daniel Yankelovich, a pollster who has been studying American attitudes on foreign affairs, said: "I think what's changed over the last year is the assumption that Iraq would make us safer from terrorists to wondering if that actually is the case. And maybe it's the opposite."

Richard A. Viguerie, a veteran conservative direct-mail consultant, said Mr. Bush "turned the volume up on his megaphone about as high as it could go to try to tie the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism" last year, and he argued that the White House could no longer do that.

It's clear that the last couple of weeks have witnessed a sea change in perceptions over Iraq. While it had long been clear that things weren't going great, every day that passed in August seemed to pound in the realization that it wasn't going at all, that anti-war sentiment had become a serious force, that former hawks had become current doves, elite supporters were now respected detractors, and the President's assurances were no longer worth a damn. Cindy Sheehan is part of that, as are new books by Larry Diamond and Anthony Shadid, worsening poll numbers, the unmet constitution deadline, and all the rest of the bad news flowing from the country.

Now Russ Feingold, a major Democrat, is calling for withdrawal, so expect him to become part of the chorus as well, adding to the critical mass of legitimacy anti-war sentiment is now gathering. The question then becomes what happens in the rest of the Democratic party. Do the so-called "serious candidates" try to marginalize this sentiment, consigning it to an ever-angrier, and ever-larger minority that threatens to tear the party apart?

Ezra Klein: Sea Change


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