It’s easy and true to say that the main reason for this is Joe Biden. As is well known, Biden wanted to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan in the Obama administration. His concern extended to the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. When the voters voted for him, they knew what they were getting.
Biden’s willingness to be skeptical of American military engagement is, if not absolutely, a consistent passage in his very long career. While initially advocating the invasion of Afghanistan and a few years earlier US operations in the Balkans, he was more active than many Senate Democrats in attempting to stop George W. Bush’s onslaught on the war in Iraq through speed limits. And, as his biographers wrote, when Biden entered politics in the late 1960s, one of the first topics he brought up (unwise, his mentors thought) was the opposition to the Vietnam War.
Much of the professional foreign policy class in Washington remains (understandably) ambiguous about Biden’s decision to end US military engagement in Afghanistan. But the president, as has often been the case when he appears to be inconsistent with the establishment, channels broader public opinion.
The majority of Democrats told respondents that the war has not been worth fighting for nearly a decade. While GOP voters have judged the engagement of the USA a little more favorably since 2014, self-identified independents have also discontinued their support.
One reason Biden is unlikely to be fully denounced by Republicans is because of Trump.
After years of railing against the “Eternal Wars” and making his own efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, the former president will find it far more difficult for conservatives to persecute Biden on this issue. Sure, some GOP hawks are still flying on Capitol Hill, but Trump’s base has followed suit and hampered the party’s efforts to be a full-necked critic.
Biden and his advisors have every reason to hope that voters will not punish them for taking the political path they believe is best.
A pause in Democrats’ stance on national security also results from a shift in voter demographics: the disappearance of the bloc that the Cold War Scoop Jackson Democrats originally targeted.
The think tankers and campaign consultants of the 2000s had a very specific “security voter” in mind. Presumably someone who remembered Vietnam and President Jimmy Carter’s failed hostage rescue in 1979 with a sense of impotence, the security voters wanted leaders who exuded power and confidence in the power of the US military. Even if only a small minority of voters said they care about national security in the voting booth, they were believed to play a big role in tight elections and swing states.
It goes without saying that this voter was white and male. But this population group either went generationally or only to the GOP and is not expected to return. It’s an interesting question whether the black and Latin American men who are reported to have defected to the GOP are the new swing security voters.
When respondents noted that women tend to vote differently than men, democratic overseas policymakers were told to be concerned about “safety mothers”. They too were white by default. They were concerned, campaign advisors imagined, that their children could become victims of suicide bombers at home or abroad. They were more concerned about the threat of war than men, and they needed to know that their government was protecting them.
Public opinion experts hotly debated the existence of “security mothers” like the “soccer mothers” who preceded them. Regardless of the reality of the Aughts, the polarization in recent years has made it clear that it is the different partisan affiliations of women that determine voting behavior. Women are more likely to vote democratically than men, and women of skin color, especially black women, are far more likely to vote democratically than white women. Democratic political thinking today focuses heavily on different racial and economic demographics – although we still have little to no research on how views on security and international affairs are split up by race and class and little by gender.
With a vast majority of veterans and their families too Assistance with reporting For a full withdrawal, it is difficult to identify a constituency that Democrats could woo by keeping troops in Afghanistan.
The is a fundamental change. With Americans becoming increasingly concerned about domestic and non-military threats, decades later this could mark a departure from the intense internationalization of Cold War-era American security fears.
However, this does not mean that security fears are gone or that they are no longer strong motivators for voting.
Although the threat posed by foreign terrorists has increased less in recent years, Trump has addressed the issue of immigration and immigrants as a security threat with some success.
His claims have often been extreme and false – immigrants commit fewer violent crimes per capita than US-born Americans – but they also seem to have fueled enthusiasm for Trump and produced rare voters for both him and Down-ticket Republicans in 2018 and 2018 2020.
So the idea of the “security voter” and the supposed weakness of the Democrats are still with us. The new form of this concern is all too evident in the reluctance of the Biden government to signal when it will fulfill its election promise to increase refugee reception and in its eagerness to develop military tools for dealing with potential migrants in Mexico and Central America.
If this is the foundation on which Democrats, either center or left, seek a new course in global affairs, they are likely to find their policies as shaky as their predecessor.