01 Apr 2003 Peace Marchers Make Strong Case – for Bush
“We support our troops when they shoot their officers” proclaimed a banner carried by protesters at a pro-homicide march in San Francisco recently.
Whoops, sorry, it was a “pro-peace” march.
Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I can’t tell the difference. So many of the “peace” marches contain assaults on police officers that it sometimes seems the peace protesters have taken a page from the Baath party handbook.
Like the Baath party, political demonstrations don’t have the power they once did. This isn’t actually the fault of the leftists, but they’ve been too clueless to notice it is not the sixties anymore.
Demonstrations can be effective political tools, but only in certain contexts.
If, for example, a politician is unaware that a large number of his constituents hold a certain point of view, a demonstration can certainly wake him up. In these days of omnipresent polling, however, you’d have to be in a coma not to know the public’s opinion of the war.
In practice, this means that a demonstration of 100 people seeking a new stop light at the corner of Fifth and Main is more likely to have an impact on a politician’s thinking than 100,000 people demonstrating on a frequently-polled topic such as the war.
Alternatively, in situations – doggone rare in the United States – in which people are afraid to speak their views, a mass demonstration can reassure those of like mind that others share their views, and that it is safe to speak out.
In this case, I guess, the “peace” demonstrations are reassuring to the leftists, but the political objective is supposed to be to recruit folks who already secretly agree, but haven’t yet spoken out.
Of course, its just possible that most Americans haven’t been afraid to share their true views, so they don’t need the reassurance of a few thousand demonstrators and a contingent of experienced looters to give them the courage to go public.
Americans, of course, are not French. Most of us don’t believe that opposition to the United States government is the highest form of morality. We believe war is a horrible, nasty business, but one that sometimes is better than the alternative.
Anyone who wants to know where the American people stand on the war would do better to check the polls than the streets. Gallup says President Bush’s approval ratings in three separate Gallup polls are around 70 percent, up from 58 percent before the start of the war.1 A March 23 ABC News-Washington Post poll2 found that 71 percent supported the decision to go to war, with 26 percent opposed. In the same poll, two percent said they had attended an anti-war demonstration.
Most interesting, when asked if the anti-war demonstrations had influenced their view of the war, seven percent of the public said the demonstrations had made them more likely to oppose the war, while almost three times as many – 20 percent – said the demonstrations had made them more likely to support it.
So Americans who take to the streets to protest the war in Iraq may be doing their country a service, but it is not the service they intend. They are undermining leftism and – unintentionally – helping grow support for Bush and the policies he promotes. More power to them.
Amy Ridenour is president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
Footnotes1 Jeffrey M. Jones, “Rally Boosting Bush Approval Ratings,” Gallup News Service, April 3, 2003, available online at http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr030403.asp as of April 3, 2003.
2 “Washington Post-ABC News Poll: Iraqi War – Day Four,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2003, available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data032403.htm as of April 3, 2003.