The current issue of Washington Monthly has an article suggesting that the military and those around them may be moving from core Republican voters to swing status, mostly due to a perception that Iraq was poorly planned, is being poorly executed, and has no end. The author cites some numbers (mostly anecdotal, since there are apparently laws against political polling of military personnel):
...the consensus view seems to be that the military as a whole votes Republican by a margin of slightly less than 2-to-1, with enlisted men and women Republican by 3-to-2, and Republicans outnumbering Democrats among officers by 8-to-1.
When I was an enlisted man on active duty (1972-1974) I can't recall a single conversation about politics with the people I worked with; nearly every single person at my level only wanted "out," and didn't much care about which President and which Congress got them there. So I don't have an opinion about the enlisted voting breakdown cited above. On the officer side, though, I can attest to that breakdown being pretty accurate.
My father spent 31 years in the Navy, retiring as a Captain (Colonel, to you Army/AF/USMC readers). When I started paying attention to politics, he was a pretty senior officer. Part of being the boss meant you had to host parties once in a while, and I was often the bartender. It became pretty clear pretty quickly that my Mom and Dad were members of a small minority of FDR Democrats in the Navy, and it remained (and still remains) that way. We still maintain contact with many of the officers with whom Dad served, and they are unreservedly Republican. We get copies of the monthly magazines put out by the Military Officers Association and USAA, and the editorial stances taken are pretty much pro-Administration. The MOAA (formerly TROA--The Retired Officers Association) has a heavy lobbying presence in Washington; it works for benefits for vets and active duty personnel. On non-personnel issues, it leans heavily Republican, and the letters to the editor are nearly all of a conservative nature. When MOAA prints a story with a conflicting view, the letters are virtually all negative. USAA is a Fortune 500 company, and it leans Republican in part because of its commercial nature.
If the author has it right, it's potentially a large shift of active voters, but the Democrats have a long way to go in understanding military personnel and their particular needs and wants. There's a telling sidebar at the bottom of the article; a tale of two letters, you might say. John Edwards and Libby Dole each had to miss an appearance at a mobilization sendoff for some National Guard members in North Carolina; each regret letter was undoubtedly written by a staff member, but the one from Dole was effusive, while the one from Edwards was perfunctory. Respect is a big deal, and the Democrats need to figure it out in a hurry. If General Clark is nominated, or is offered a post in an incoming Democratic Administration, that would probably broaden the appeal quite a bit.Posted by Linkmeister at November 7, 2003 12:01 AM