why is the democratic party anti-war when democratic presidents start so many wars?

In a comment, August noted that the Democratic party historically has been responsible for a whole lotta wars, so there is no reason to believe that the Democratic party is the natural home of the antiwar crowd. Until Iraq ’03, the GOP hadn’t initiated a major war since 1898, when the McKinley administration fought Spain and followed up with a 10 year colonial war in the Philippines. Until Bush II, GOP wars were small (Lebanon ’56, Iraq ’91, Somalia ’93) or the GOP brought big wars to an end (Korea, Vietnam). Nixon expanded an already massive war, making him sort of an exception.

So why is the antiwar movement associated in the imagination with the Democratic party? Why the shift to the Democratic party in the 1960s? A simple hypothesis: Counter culture. The GOP has consistently been the party of the bourgeoisie and the puritans. Right now, antiwar activists are counter-cultural in their personal style and political rhetoric. Therefore, you can’t have them in the same room with the puritans. Call it long hair dynamics. If one groups fails to honor the norms of another group, then policy doesn’t matter.

The Abstract Truth: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz


Written by fabiorojas

December 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

4 Responses

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  1. I don’t see Democrats and anti-war activists as you, Fabio. I was draft-eligible during Vietnam and watched the Democrats pummel anti-war demonstrators outside the 1968 convention. I watched the Democrats flap their hawk wings for more than a decade, especially in the Kennedy White House. Maybe antiwar activists in this decade (small potatoes, IMHO) align with the Democrats. Or maybe, as you suggest, it occurs only in the imagination.



    December 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

  2. I don’t know, the world is complicated. You know, it is one of those imponderables. Here’s another riddle: Why is Steve Levitt anti-racist when he approvingly posts racist things ( And another: How will the fan-boys around Orgtheory defend Levitt in the coming days without themselves coming across as racist? It’s complicated.



    December 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  3. The defense industry seems more at home in the Republican than Democratic party, which would contribute to keeping the anti-war crowd out of the Republican room.


    Nicholas Poggioli

    December 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm

  4. @Poggioli: The defense industry finds many allies in both parties. (1) Check the number of defense contractors with facilities in “blue” states. (2) Follow the discourse and the outcomes of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and try to match the locations up with the two parties. (3) Prior to this year, the % of defense industry political contributions favored the democrats.



    December 18, 2012 at 3:04 am

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