Saturday, December 17, 2005

Major Issue

Since I really know nothing about her, I am looking forward to watching 6th District Congressional candidate Ret. Major Tammy Duckworth on television this Sunday morning and hearing what she has to say. And while I have no position on the race between her and incumbent Christine Cegelis, I can't help but think back to what happened to former Georgia Senator Max Cleland.

Cleland was a Vietnam veteran who came home a triple amputee. That didn't stop Cleland's opponent in 2002, Republican congressman Saxby Chambliss, from running a post-9/11 campaign that essentially (amazingly?) pounded Cleland for not being patriotic enough or caring enough for the security of our country. The campaign tactic, premised upon Cleland's votes against some of the homeland security measures that were being pushed through by the Bush Administration, worked well enough to oust the war hero from office.

But I'm not drawing a direct parallel between that race and the one closer to home. I just think that it will be interesting to see how the war issue and Maj. Duckworth's status is going to play out in a primary between two Democrats. Understandably, she would want to use her service to her country as an asset. But at the same time, Cegelis is going to want to counter this, but will have to do so without the appearance of attacking a war hero.

Should Maj. Duckworth win the primary, the general election contest with Peter Roskam raises a whole new dynamic. Should be interesting.

1 Comments:

At December 22, 2005 at 9:36 PM, Blogger Attrill said...

If Maj. Duckworth is a good candidate who can run a solid campaign she certainly could win the primary and the seat - but I look at her service to her country as having no impact in the race, and perhaps a negative impact.

Cleland is a great example of a true war hero defeated by Republicans who directly attacked him on a character issue (his patriotism) that he had proven by putting his own life on the line. He is not the only example - John Kerry, Wesley Clark, hell, George McGovern was one of the most decorated pilots of WWII. Even within the Republican party it doesn't work - look at McCain in 2000.

The problem is that Democratic and Republican voters react very differently to a veteran who opposes military actions. Some people looked at John Kerry's service in Vietnam as something that gave him the authority to oppose the war when he returned (my view). Others look at it as a complete contradiction, a betrayal of his military service, a "flip flop". I heard this attitude from conservative friends of mine even before the "swiftboating" began (in fact, it is the root of why veterans came forward to attack him). Being a veteran who opposes the war they fought in (or later wars) creates a cognitive dissonance for many voters. What does this person stand for? Why did they kill people for a cause they didn't believe in?

The basic split between "he/she earned the knowledge and right to oppose this war" vs. "How can they betray their fellow soldiers/own service" is an essential difference between many Democratic and Republican voters. Unfortunately most Democrats think they are electing a veteran who is unassailable on defense issues while most Republicans wonder where that person stands before the attacks have even begun.

 

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