The Partisan Temptation: US Foreign Policy and Presidential Politics

Article by Justin Raimondo.
In terms of ideology, 19 percent of those who consider themselves “very liberal” support Obama’s Libyan adventure, and the number goes way up to 42 percent when we’re talking about those who see themselves as “somewhat liberal.” 32 percent of self-described “moderates” support the President’s Libya policy, and the numbers go down when we get into the conservative zone: the conservative somewhats and the Tea Party types are17 percent and 18 percent respectively. 49 percent of “very liberal” voters are opposed to the Libyan intervention, but a mere 14 percent say Obama’s latest foreign policy move makes them less likely to vote for him. So he gets to keep his base intact – yes, even after all those drone strikes, the incursion into Pakistan, and now Libya.

Look at the astonishing turnabout made by the activist core of the Democratic party on foreign policy matters: even among the “very liberal” types, nearly 20 percent support the policy and 32 percent are “not sure.” In a swathe of the population that filled the streets with picket signs proclaiming “Bush Lied, People Died!”, this is an about-face that pays tribute to the hypnotic power of partisan politics, and specifically to the distorting influence of our two-party system on the foreign policy debate.

As long as our politics are defined in terms of Team Blue and Team Red, and these arrangements are encoded in law, real change of any sort, never mind a radical reversal of our interventionist foreign policy, is next to impossible. The reason is that the “pragmatists” in the two parties can always count on their respective bases to back them no matter what they do – that, at least, has been the case up until now, and this operating principle extends especially when we get to foreign policy.

The liberal base of the Democratic party has basically made a pact with the Devil in which they agree to forget about all those foreigners being killed overseas, in return for a package of goodies on the home front: and the Obama-ites have certainly gone out of their way to reward their loyalists. The liberals have, in short, sold out, quite literally – and at a very reduced price. Instead of single-payer health care they got a corporate bailout and more money in the pockets of the President’s favorite crony-capitalists, but hey, what the heck, let’s get practical. It takes lots of crony capitalist money to run a presidential campaign. And besides that, what if the Republicans get back in power – do you want that?

This argument always wins the day in “progressive” circles, no matter how committed to non-interventionism some of these folks may be, in theory: it works like a charm every time.

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