George W. Bush said in a press conference on March 21, 2006 that U.S.
troops will still be in Iraq after his presidency ends in 2009. Asked when
all U.S. forces would finally pull out of Iraq, Bush told a White House
news conference: “That will be decided by future presidents and future
governments of Iraq.”
The silence from Congress in reaction to
this pledge was deafening.
While the president was pledging occupation until 2009, polls are showing
that opposition to the war is growing.
The latest CBS poll on Iraq showed that 70% think the
occupation is not worth the costs. Even 42%, of Republican voters feel
that way as do 90% of Democrats and 72% of Independent voters. This is
consistent with a
CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll which found that only 37% of
Americans believe the invasion of Iraq was worth it, 54% believe we should
withdraw within a year, and only 22% believe the U.S. is sure to win (down
from 79% in 2003).
Another poll conducted by ICR Research for
may make incumbents who have supported the war even more nervous. This
poll found that a near majority of voters are ready to pledge to vote
against candidates who continue to support the war. If the Iraq occupation
continues to go poorly there could be a strong reaction at the polls in
The view of voters will be strengthened as they realize that even U.S.
troops are saying no to the commander in chief. These polls come on the
poll by Le Moyne College and Zogby of veterans showing 72
percent favor withdrawal from Iraq within a year. Thus, voters who want to
support the troops may realize the best way to do so is to bring them
The disconnect between the views of American voters about the occupation
and with the president and the leaders of both parties is becoming more
evident. Bush minimized the concerns of Congress describing them as
election year jitters, saying: “There is a certain unease when you go into
an election year.” But, unease may be greatly understating the risk to
Democrats need to realize that not only does three-quarters of their base
strongly oppose the war -- but their base is ready to pledge not to
vote for pro-war candidates! The Iraq War could be the issue that robs
Democrats of their chance to regain majority status in either House. The
Democratic base may stay home or vote independent because of the
leadership’s failure to call for an end to the war. Party leaders like
Senators Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Representatives Rahm
Emanuel and Steny Hoyer who have held the party back from opposing the war
are potentially sending the Democrats over a political cliff by alienating
their base which includes the large, emerging peace vote.
But, it is not all bad news for Democrats. If the Democrats clearly oppose
the war by supporting Rep. Murtha's call for redeployment, the
VotersForPeace poll shows this will lead them to majority party status. By
taking a stand against the war Democrats will attract Independent and
Republican voters who are fed up with the failed quagmire.
A near majority of Republican registered voters are also getting tired of
the war and a significant percentage, 25.7% would consider signing the
pledge -- and 5.5% strongly agree with the pledge. If the Republicans lose
these voters to the Democrats they will find themselves in an electoral
loss of historic proportions. Support for the war is made more risky for
the Republicans because the fastest growing group of voters, Independents,
strongly oppose the war and support the pledge. Thus, anti-Iraq war voters
could cost Republicans their majority party status.
Republican incumbents need to side with the people and put some distance
between themselves and the president's ongoing occupation of Iraq. They
need some clear votes showing that they do not agree with the president's
“stay the course” strategy.
The Iraq occupation may be the best news to the growing independent
political movement. Independent voters are already the fastest growing
group of voters. And, the failure of either Party to strongly oppose the
war provides an opportunity for alternatives to the Democrats and
Republicans as anti-war voters look for an anti-war alternative. This new
anti-war voting bloc is emerging at a time of unprecedented unpopularity
for the two parties -- polls showing both parties with higher negative
ratings then positive ratings for the first time in polling history.
The ongoing Iraq occupation -- with President Bush's promise to stay the
course and mostly silence from the Congress -- is increasing the
likelihood of an angry electorate that says it is time for change and
votes out the incumbents.
is director of
Democracy Rising and a
for the US Senate in Maryland.
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