When I read about Obama’s drawing down troops so that he’d send tens of thousands home right before the election, I said that I didn’t think this would make the troops vote for him. Barry Rubin kindly pointed out that the calculation wasn’t to get troop votes, but to get votes from his antiwar base. Barry’s right, of course. That’s obviously Obama’s calculation.
What I’ve been wondering is how I managed to get it so bass-ackwards. I’m usually at least slightly more astute than that. I think it’s because my instinct is that, when push comes to shove, the anti-war crowd is going to vote for Obama regardless. After all, despite his getting us into a third war, and one that was unnecessary for promoting America’s interests (although withdrawing early from that one will be yet another black eye on America), Obama’s base has not taken to the streets. They may grumble, but they’re not using war as a means to undermine his presidency.
These Leftist voters are going to support the Obama “package” no matter what. While a few may be one issue nutroots, with their issue being the war in Afghanistan, the vast majority are true Progressive believers. They may decry the war, but they’ll still go with the guy who hits all the other sweet spots: Big Government, abortion, climate change, bows to dictators, etc.. There is no way in Hell that they will abandon that package in favor of a conservative candidate. In other words, whether Obama leaves troops in Afghanistan, or withdraws them despite all military advice, his decision will not change what the base does.
As for the non-base, meaning the mushy Democrats and the disengaged Independents, even those who don’t like Afghanistan aren’t going to change their vote based upon a troop draw-down. These people are looking at the economy. If it’s good, they might vote for Obama; if it’s bad, they won’t. The numbers in Afghanistan will be irrelevant to that calculation.
In other words, withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan puts Americans in harm’s way for no good reason. The nutroots will vote for him regardless, and the rest, although not thrilled about Afghanistan, won’t let it affect their votes one way or another.