Last week, Glenn Reynolds wondered if Democrats can ever get tough? Can they embrace such issues as national security and defense? The short answer, of course, is no. What is more interesting is looking at why this is so. I identify four distinct groups that are either part of the Democrat mainstream or have significant influence in it. Working my way from the outside in, these are:
The Democrats first attracted this group in 1972 during the Viet Nam war and it still influences them. This is the most ethically pure of the groups. They are against all wars everywhere. They are no where near the mainstream but they are vocal and their protests get a lot of press. This group had a lot of influence on Clinton's foreign policies. The interesting thing about this group is that there are a lot more people claiming to be part of it than actually are. I will explain as I go along.
These people think that America is corrupt, has always been corrupt, and always will be corrupt (unless we have a revolution and put them in charge). They look at the Democrats as being nearly as bad as the Republicans (this was Nader's main campaign theme in 2000). To them, even a "good" war like WWII was just an excuse to establish an American empire.
While the peaceniks are consistent, the anti-Americans will jump through philosophical hoops to justify their positions. Look at Afghanistan. Prior to September, 2000 there were numerous protests about the Taliban and its record on human rights with the strong implication that they should be overthrown by a benevolent outside force. When this happened, the same people started protesting in favor of the Taliban.
Members of this group insist that they are simply pacifists but they tend to be supportive of violent anti-American foreign leaders. They draw moral equivalencies between America and Israel striking military targets and terrorists striking civilians.
This group is broad and deep. It includes a number of intellectuals who are celebrated because of their anti-American views, people such as Noam Chompsky and Ward Churchill. It also includes pseudo-everymen like Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan.
The big anti-war rallies are organized by International ANSWER and Not In Our Name, both firmly in the forefront of this group.
For the most part, the anti-American group is outside the mainstream but it does include a few members of Congress such as John Conyers. The majority of this group's influence comes from demonstrations and intellectual peer-pressure.
With this group we are moving into the Democrat mainstream. While they think of themselves as "internationalists" they really reflect current political thinking in Europe. After the fall of communism, Europeans looked back as centuries of warfare and decided that there are two specific root causes. These are religion and nationalism. Europeans solved the religious problem by becoming officially secular and they regard all expressions of religion as equally repugnant. Look at the Europeans quoted as seeing George Bush and Osama bin Laden as equivalent because they both mention God.
The solution to nationalism is to temper the nationalist impulse with an international body - specifically the UN, the EU or, at least, NATO. This is why President Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" was never accepted by the Internationalists - no matter how many countries were included, they weren't the right countries.
Europeans have a huge aversion to war. Their preferred tools are sanctions and multi-lateral talks. To their mind doing things unilaterally, especially in the interests of a single nation, lead to Nazi Germany. This is one reason that the Bush/Hitler comparisons keep coming up (the other is blind hatred of Bush but I will get to that).
This group is well entrenched in the Democrat mainstream. John Kerry typifies it as does George Soros and MoveOn.
Unlike the other groups, this one has no positions of its own. All it has are reactions. Bush proposes a modest reform to Social Security and the Bush-Haters insist that the current system is perfect. These are the people who insist that Bush was personally responsible for the levees failing in New Orleans and for Katrina itself.
Since Bush made national defense his signature issue, the Bush-Haters are against every part of it. Every action is interpreted in the worst possible light.
While many of the Democrat elite are Internationalists, the rank and file are Bush-Haters and they are led by the party chairman, Howard Dean. Not only are they against anything Bush ever did, they try to take revenge on any of their own who is considered to have helped Bush. There is a strong movement to dump Joe Leiberman, the party's 2000 Vice-Presidential candidate because he is seen as a traitor for being pro-defense.
So where does that leave the Democrats? The peaceniks are against anything military including defending our nation. The anti-Americans are against defending a country based on oppression (the US). The Internationalists want to depend on international diplomacy and French approval. The Bush-Haters would eat their own spleen before supporting any position Bush held. All of them turn on any Democrat who is the slightest pro-defense and all of these groups are too important to the Democrats to disown. That leaves the whole issue of national defense to the Republicans.