The latest Gallup Poll shows that Brand Republican is crumbling, indeed, their “self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state.” We need not ask why, but Thomas F. Schaller does in an OP/ED in the Baltimore Sun. His answer to the question why?
The short answer is that President Bush’s war of choice in Iraq has destroyed the partisan brand Republicans spent the past four decades building.
Brand Republican was “based upon four pillars: that Republicans are more trustworthy on defense and military issues; that they know when and where markets can replace or improve government; that they are more competent administrators of those functions government can’t privatize; and, finally, that their public philosophy is imbued with moral authority.”
The war demolished all four claims.
Americans in general “think Iraq is a disaster, oppose escalation and blame Mr. Bush and his party for the mess in Mesopotamia.”
Heading into the 2006 mid-terms, polls showed Republicans trailing Democrats as the party most trusted to handle Iraq and terrorism. Nationally, Mr. Bush’s war approval ratings hover around 30 percent.
Military members are skeptical, too. A Military Times poll released in December revealed that only 35 percent of military members approved of the president’s handling of the war – despite the fact that 46 percent of them are self-identified Republicans (down from 60 percent in previous Military Times polls) while just 16 percent are Democrats. According to a recent Zogby survey of troops serving in Iraq, 72 percent want American forces home within a year.
Congressional hearings last week on war contracting dispel the second claim. Billions of dollars appropriated for Iraq cannot be accounted for, and contracts have been doled out with limited oversight and little regard for competitiveness.
Finally, I’ll note that Schaller points out the folly in the Republican claims about Kerry “voting for before voting against” funding the war.
But Mr. Kerry voted for a version of the $87 billion appropriation bill that also raised revenues to pay for it. Instead, we pile the war’s costs atop our mountainous national debt, leaving future generations to pay for it later – plus interest.
“The Iraq war’s human consequences abroad” Schaller says “are far more tragic than any impact they are having on partisan politics at home. But for Republicans, the last casualty of Mr. Bush’s war of choice may be the party itself.” That in itself is good news to many.