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Hawkish Democrats, Anti-War Republicans? Thank Trump

Imagine if, during President George W. Bush’s occupation of Iraq, someone had predicted that in about a decade, Republican voters would oppose war more than Democrats. Few would have believed it.

Yet according to new polling, it’s happening. It might even be President Donald Trump’s greatest accomplishment to date.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald broke down this new data in a recent piece in which he claims Democrats are “becoming far more militaristic and pro-war than Republicans [1].” Greenwald says that while the overwhelming majority of Washington elites opposed—or, more accurately, had a total meltdown [2] over—Trump’s December announcement that he would withdraw [3] U.S. troops from Syria, polling data [4] from Morning Consult/Politico shows that 49 percent of Americans support the decision while 33 percent oppose it.

Pluralities or majorities [5] of Americans being tired of war [6] is not new [7]. This is: “[W]hat is remarkable about the new polling data on Syria is that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party voters, while Republicans and independents overwhelming favor their removal,” Greenwald writes.


“The numbers are stark: Of people who voted for Clinton in 2016, only 26 percent support withdrawing troops from Syria, while 59 percent oppose it,” he notes.

And then the kicker: “Trump voters overwhelmingly support withdraw by 76 percent to 14 percent.”

Seventy-six percent? Think about that number. More than three quarters of GOP voters today want to support the troops by bringing them home. A position that was once denounced as “unpatriotic [8]” is now apparently part of making America great again.

Greenwald also notes that the poll shows similar results among those who voted Democrat in the midterm election, with 28 percent supporting withdrawal and 54 percent opposing it.

How did Republican midterm election voters feel about cutting and running [9] in Syria? Seventy-four percent support withdrawal and 18 percent oppose it, results similar to Trump presidential election voter opinions.

That is a hell of a sea change among the Republican rank and file.

Greenwald also analyzed how this drastic attitudinal foreign policy shift applied to Afghanistan. “Identical trends can be seen on the question of Trump’s announced intention to withdraw half of the U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, where Democrats are far more supportive of keeping troops there than Republicans and independents,” he writes.

“This case is even more stark since Obama ran in 2008 on a pledge to end the war in Afghanistan and bring all troops home,” he continues. “Throughout the Obama years, polling data consistently showed [10] that huge majorities of Democrats favored a withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan” (emphasis in the original).

Finally ending America’s longest war had been popular with Democrats and just about everyone else [11] before Trump. But while Greenwald successfully makes the case that anti-Trump hysteria is the main culprit behind Democrats’ ongoing neocon morph [12], this change on foreign policy was also likely sown by liberals’ Obama experience.

While dedicated minorities of anti-war conservatives [13] and progressives [14] did their best to publicize and condemn Obama’s ghastly record on drone strikes [15], regime change [16], executive orders [17], and the unconstitutional killing of American citizens [18], none of this received any serious pushback or even acknowledgment from Democrats during his tenure. The left mostly just accepted [19] it. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were easy for liberals to hate. Obama, Hillary Clinton [20], and Leon Panetta [21], not so much.

Anti-war Democrats who once wanted to charge Bush with war crimes [22] simply didn’t find those transgressions [23] criminal when their president did it [24].

So if American intervention in Syria was once considered more acceptable to liberals because Obama was doing it, would it not also make sense for Democratic voters to rationalize that Trump seeking to undo [25] Obama’s Syria policy [26] is inherently bad? Similarly, if enthusiasm for foreign intervention was a conservative litmus test during the Bush years, many Republicans likely now see Syria withdrawal as cleaning up Obama’s mess.

This is probably why Senator Lindsey Graham, a vocal opposer [27] of U.S. withdrawal from Syria, immediately tried to characterize Trump’s decision as an “Obama-like mistake. [28]” It’s also why the more realist—and correct—Senator Mike Lee shot back [29], “This is the opposite of an Obama decision. Obama got us involved. Trump has taken us out.” 

He who controls the partisan narrative is most likely to influence policy.

This polling data seems to reflect that Trump, more any other factor, has been the primary driver of Republicans becoming more pro-peace and Democrats becoming less anti-war. I used to worry that a president Hillary Clinton would make Democrats more militaristic. It turns out a Trump presidency is doing the same thing.

“It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world,” George W. Bush once said [30].

“America first,” Donald Trump says [31]. For now, Republicans agree with him.

Jack Hunter is the former political editor of Rare.us [32] and co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington [33] with Senator Rand Paul.

24 Comments (Open | Close)

24 Comments To "Hawkish Democrats, Anti-War Republicans? Thank Trump"

#1 Comment By Fred Bowman On January 20, 2019 @ 11:18 pm

Well when troops comes home, I’ll believe it. But for the time being I’m not holding my breath for any changes. Btw if Trump and Republicans have become so anti-war, what the Hell is the US still doing in Yemen supporting Saudi Arabia? Wasn’t that something that Obama got America into, and more the reason for Trump to get us out of? Truth be told, I feel both Democrats and Republicans politicans worship at the altar of the Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex and when in power know that the Ass they have to kiss, no matter what they said to electorate.

#2 Comment By JGF On January 20, 2019 @ 11:29 pm

My observation is that most voters’ *real* viewpoints have not changed here, because their *real* viewpoint is “it’s all about the laundry”. For example, Trump is clearly preparing for regime change in Iran, which is more consistent with the GWB view. Do Republicans object? Not that I can tell.

#3 Comment By Clyde Schechter On January 21, 2019 @ 12:00 am

It is difficult to avoid concluding that a large number of Americans simply have no real opinions about these issues and are just following the leaders of their tribes. Perhaps the Democrats and Republicans should give up their donkey and elephant mascots in favor of the sheep and the lemming.

#4 Comment By Making It So On January 21, 2019 @ 2:13 am

“Of people who voted for Clinton in 2016, only 26 percent support withdrawing troops from Syria, while 59 percent oppose it”

Completely unsurprising. Clintonites are War Party first, Democrats second.

Indeed, it’s not a matter of Democrat vs Republican so much as what we call The War Party, which has been a grossly disproportionately represented part of both major parties, versus American patriots who oppose foreign meddling and have had a hard time getting an audience amid the constant din made from foreign lobbyists and the merchants of death.

The major parties need to start systematically marginalizing and dispossessing their interventionists, who have had a very, very long run. They were given endless resources and seventeen years to show what they could do, and the results were catastrophic.

Bush Jr. came in promising “no nation building”, “more humble foreign policy” and then sold us out. Obama came in promising “out of Iraq and Afghanistan” and then sold us out, dragging us into Syria for good measure. And Trump just isn’t cutting it. We’re still in all the places Bush Jr and Obama dragged us into.

It’s time again for real Americans to rise up and resume the fight against the foreign agents, meddlers, “neoconservatives”, and Wall Street arms makers. We need a president who when he says he’s going to build a wall, builds one, and when he says he’s going to get us out of the Middle East, does it.

#5 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On January 21, 2019 @ 4:45 am

Just wait until some progressive melts down enough to proclaim Greenwald “racist and fascist”…

#6 Comment By peter mcloughlin On January 21, 2019 @ 5:03 am

It is impossible to label one political grouping pro-war, another pro-peace. The truth is far more nuanced, as the research data suggests. Foreign policy is determined, generally, by what is perceived to be in the best national interest of a state (and its people). It is often more revealing who countries align themselves with, rather than against. Interest can cut across all apparently unifying principles: family, kin, nation, religion, ideology, politics. It is the misjudged pursuit of interest that is the cause of war. The pursuit of interest also leads – unintendedly – to war, the very war the nation is trying to avoid.

#7 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On January 21, 2019 @ 8:17 am

“He who controls the partisan narrative is most likely to influence policy.”

As always. And, like lemmings, the great masses of boobs swallow whatever their “leader” feeds ’em, whether it’s Trumpie or Obama (or, had she been elected, Hillary).

#8 Comment By SteveM On January 21, 2019 @ 8:30 am

Re: “This polling data seems to reflect that Trump, more any other factor, has been the primary driver of Republicans becoming more pro-peace and Democrats becoming less anti-war.”

The Republicans are only nominally more “pro-peace”. They are still full bore advocates for the hyper-bloated National Security State. Nobody is pushing back hard against Nut-Job Bolton and Fat Pompeo as they maraud around the planet playing Mafia enforcers with a negotiating strategy of “Make them a deal that they can’t refuse.”

And the Republican endorsement of the updated Global Cop Gorilla forever National Defense Strategy indicates that their new found prudence is marginal at best. I.e., the U.S. is still engaged in sabre rattling and war-monger threats globally, and the Warfare State fear-monger scenarios out the wazoo domestically to extract even more taxpayer for the War Machine and its Security State accoutrements.

Agree with Jack Hunter that the Democrats are reactively stupid related to U.S. military operations in the ME simply because of Trump. But that being said, the bipartisan parasitic War Party still dominates (and wrecks) U.S. foreign policy.

#9 Comment By Raven78 On January 21, 2019 @ 10:32 am

Reason being dipsticks, is we never let our troops do the job they are trained to do, and that is fight the enemy to total defeat, we get the enemy on its back foot and then we turn it into a political war and start our very long journey to rebuild the country we just attacked.
So piss off on your continual wars, we (America) has sacrificed enough of our young to only be the bad guy 15 years after the fact even though we are still in these s-holes. I have a solution, hurry up and run to the nearest recruiting station and bring your brothers, sisters and children so they can be sacrificed instead of ours. Then you can rebuild all the nations you want to rebuild.

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 21, 2019 @ 10:32 am

i am worn of giving any more credit to the current president than ought to be given. Whastever the numbers regarding a less aggressive foreign policy, they are not attributable to this president. The shift began when it became clear:

1. that Iraq was a mistake
2. Afgahnistan became a mistake (i opposed it outright)
3. US anger over 9/11 was vented and is in some manner of subsiding.

President Trump echoed a sentiment that had been growing during the previous administrations. The only one’s who seemed to miss the message were members of the political class. And it’s also incorrect to to press the childish label of anti-war used to manipulate the discussion. The distance is not anti-war, but anti-needless war. And in more keeping with old style republican ethics a tend to increased suspicion of foreign involvement at the cost of the country. Whether that involvement is militaristic, social or economic.

I am more interested in smashing the terrorists here than I am making up terrorists to smash abroad.

#11 Comment By Collin On January 21, 2019 @ 11:27 am

Or maybe build off of anti-Democrats instead of saying pro-war Democrats. And there are plenty of them:

1) Honestly I was surprised by the Ds supporting staying in Syria with troops. They did not support Obama desire to bomb in 2013 and my guess most won’t care about the withdrawl in one month.

2) I am still not convinced Trump is anti-war as he has been applying non-military pressure on Iran and Cuba.

3) The administration needs better foreign policy discipline as Bolton and Pompeo are both pursueing war. And are we withdrawing from Syria?

4) On point 3, the administration also needs to reasonable on successes. I think it is great they are having dialogue with North Korea but can the President keep this success within reality. Nothing wrong with saying you are having talks with North Korea…..Instead of Trump stating NK is no longer a nuclear threat. Makes him look ridiculous instead of a desire to pursue peace.

5) I think the worst part of being an anti-war Democrat is when we are in power, most of the right screams we are weak and stuff and the anti-war right is not willing to defend the President very well.

#12 Comment By b. On January 21, 2019 @ 12:22 pm

“Trump has taken us out.”

Trump has not, and will not.

President Adelson has the bolt-on hold Trump’s leash.

#13 Comment By Bill Woolsey On January 21, 2019 @ 1:13 pm

While I am pleased to see rank and file Republicans more skeptical of foreign interventions and troubled by the rank and file Democrats change, it really just makes it clear that democracy needs to be limited. There is no “will of the people.” They are just too ignorant–rationally ignorant because of the minuscule impact of any one vote–to make any kind of independent judgement.

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 21, 2019 @ 1:43 pm

What matters is not what a President was elected on, and whether ordinary Americans want war or not. It is what Wall Street and the allied Deep State want. Profits before people, and the profits for exporting war, for them, are immense.

#15 Comment By BasileosPetros On January 21, 2019 @ 1:45 pm

“It is difficult to avoid concluding that a large number of Americans simply have no real opinions about these issues and are just following the leaders of their tribes. Perhaps the Democrats and Republicans should give up their donkey and elephant mascots in favor of the sheep and the lemming.”

@Clyde Schechter. This is exactly right. The American public doesn’t know anything about foreign policy or international affairs, and merely parrots the rhetoric of whatever “their guy” says. In an age where conscription is archaic and soldiering is a career move, our unending wars have too little effect on the lives of the average citizen–outside of those who volunteer for it, and then (to be crude) can hardly complain–for their to be a powerful, principled opposition.

Whoever in the military-industrial complex figured out that they should do away with the draft in times of war must be accorded a genius.

#16 Comment By Peter Doucette On January 21, 2019 @ 3:40 pm

The troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan are nothing but a scam and has nothing to do with either political party being for or against war. It’s just political theatre.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 21, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

Democrats have always tried to come from behind by borrowing a leaf from the Republican playbook, and trying to pontificate about how much more patriotic they really are than the Republicans who are always posturing about patriotism. Its a losing game, but they keep doing it, over and over.

As to Syria — I held my nose to vote for Hillary, and laughed at the looks on her acolytes faces when she lost. It was that kind of choice. I generally favor winding down U.S. military intervention overseas. But, summarily pulling out of Syria, could be a mistake — even if the Dems motives are likely “Dump on Trump” more than carefully considered principled positions.

ISIS are truly bad characters who should in some manner be hunted to the ends of the earth and destroyed. We’ve made some commitments to the Syrian Kurdish forces, and we shouldn’t just cut and run. We helped create a vacuum, so we can’t simply pull out and increase the vacuum.

On the other hand, we definitely shouldn’t commit ground troops — which I half suspect Clinton would have done by now, if only to show how macho she can be.

it really just makes it clear that democracy needs to be limited. There is no “will of the people.” They are just too ignorant

Democracy allows more variables to be in play than hereditary monarchy, closed aristocracy, open and statutory oligarchy, or tyranny. The people aren’t always right, and don’t always pay attention, but there is room for something better to emerge, so now and then, it does.

#18 Comment By M. Orban On January 21, 2019 @ 8:42 pm

The President’s approval rating is around 40% and slowly sinking, while the 2020 election is inching closer. Someone felt compelled to persuade the more pacifist-minded folks reading TAC, that Democrats mean war, Republicans bring peace and only because this president.

I for one don’t see anything intrinsic in either party’s philosophy that prevents the next war.

Thought experiment:
Let’s say, we pull out of Syria, for real. Few years pass and Assad regains full control of his country with Iranian help, becoming even more indebted to the ayatollahs. Iran now regained the land bridge to South Lebanon and arms Hezbollah to the teeth. Eventually war breaks out…
Are we ready to stand by?

We can paint many scenarios like that… in the south China Sea, the Taiwan Straight, the 48th parallel, etc…
I would like to see us being able to fold our arms and shrug, but I don’t think that’s how it would play out. And it is not a Democratic vs Republican thing.

#19 Comment By Anne Mendoza On January 21, 2019 @ 9:35 pm

Too much is made about professed changes in war and peace attitudes among Republicans and Democrats. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, are indifferent to America’s wars. I doubt that the average American is even aware that we are at war in Yemen. As for purported anti-war sentiment among Republicans, I don’t see it where Iran is concerned or even Yemen which has attracted worldwide condemnation. And when a hostile foreign power is accused – and only accused – of engaging in chemical warfare, it’s bombs away to great applause from both Republicans and Democrats. Anti-war sentiment that is insufficient to support an anti-war movement isn’t really all that anti-war.

#20 Comment By M. Orban On January 22, 2019 @ 1:26 am

Correction: 38th parallel, not 48th…

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 22, 2019 @ 10:15 am

“Whoever in the military-industrial complex figured out that they should do away with the draft in times of war must be accorded a genius.”

Those are the same geniuses that protested the Vietnam War (getting nearly every argument about Vietnam incorrect save, war gets people killed in horrible ways) and have been for 20 years, advancing war as a staple of US policy.

An astute observation, to be sure.

#22 Comment By Phil On January 22, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

The Republicans and Democrats are being consistent with their values, I’m not sure where you get your assumptions. It’s very simple –

Republicans want a pure military fight where we win, gain absolute dominance, all threats neutralized, then walk away. If that’s not possible, they get bored and want out.

Democrats don’t want a fight in the first place, but once involved, we aren’t done until some form of utopian civilization is achieved.

#23 Comment By Pragmatic On January 23, 2019 @ 7:02 am

I guess I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t vote for GWB’s 2nd term because of his actions in Iraq. And while I can’t speak directly for anyone else, I KNOW I’m not the only non-leftist who has problems with our imperial hubris.

I can say FOR SURE that Trump is a symptom and not a cause – that his election is a DIRECT result of the abject failure of our institutions and that TAC still does not understand the 2016 election is astounding to me.

#24 Comment By seaboard On January 23, 2019 @ 10:17 pm

@Pragmatic – “I can say FOR SURE that Trump is a symptom and not a cause – that his election is a DIRECT result of the abject failure of our institutions […]”

I agree with this. I’m an old Tea Party voter. I voted for Trump holding my nose and assuming the worst. I voted against the GOP in the midterms because of the failures on immigration, foreign policy, the huge deficit spending bill, and no infrastructure work for America.

I will definitely vote against Trump in the 2020 primaries, and if the Democrats manage to field a decent, sentient human being – e.g. Biden, Sanders, Warren – I will vote for them against Trump regardless of deep differences with them.

I’ll do it to punish Trump and the GOP for wasting two years during which they enjoyed nearly total government control. Instead of advancing the America First agenda they did favors for Wall Street and Israel. They were supposed to stop immigration, get us out of the Middle East, and spend our tax money on infrastructure. Instead they frittered it away on global corporations and wars for foreign countries.