The G.I. Vote


Benjamin Wallace-Wells has a sharp piece in the November Washington Monthly arguing that Bush is losing support among military voters. "What we're seeing now is almost unprecedented," one source says, "this widespread sense among people in the military that they're being jacked around."

Of course, as with his losses among libertarian-leaning conservatives, the phenomenon might dissolve after voters take a peek at the competition. Wallace-Wells documents some serious disillusionment with Bush and the Republicans; he does not document a newfound attachment to the alternative. "I will vote non-Republican in a heartbeat if it continues as is," one retired officer told the reporter. That's certainly a sentiment that should frighten the GOP. But note that the man still can't bring himself to say "vote Democrat."

All that aside, the article is an interesting and intelligent look at the military's political values and how they've evolved over time. Recommended.


NEXT: Suits and the Suing Suers who File Them

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well as long as they vote how they feel that’s what’s important.

  2. The GOP counts on military voters. They are an important part of its base. A low military turnout cout be nearly as harmful as a realignment.

    And to the extent that military votes are based on feeling respected or appreciated by the candidate, or having confidence in his strength and responsibility, a Kerry or Clark candidacy could pick up support.

  3. No one should assume the military vote is in any way monolithic. There is a great diversity of political opinion among the uniformed. Hell, my career Air Force colonel dad voted for McGovern in ’72 (after voting for Wallace in ’68; I’m still trying to figure that one out).

    All types join the service. Some admittedly do it out of right-wingish patriotism, while others are just looking for job security. Many of those in uniform today would be just as happy in a civil service job with a public sector union card.

  4. As an Army Officer. I have to disagree with

    “Many of those in uniform today would be just as happy in a civil service job with a public sector union card.”

    If that were true I wouldn’t be happy working a 60 hour week and spending time outside in the cold and rain. It takes a special kind of person to be in the military and unless you are a veteran you don’t really understand why.

  5. Dave,
    I’m a veteran and I don’t understand why. Gung-ho types like you made my life a living hell. That’s why I was so fucking relieved to get discharged before I had to frag somebody.

  6. While I respect and understand your sentiments, Dave, may I also point out that maybe your viewpoint has a lot to do with, as one veteran once told me, whether you are “the knife edge or the utility belt”. The military as a whole (and especially the Air Force and Navy) consists of a lot more diesel mechanics, file clerks and dental technicians than riflemen.

    I was working in San Antonio during Gulf War I. With such a large military and especially military medical presence, active and reserve, a great number were called to duty. The vast number went proudly, but there were vocal elements, including doctors and nurses upon whom the military had lavished beaucoup tax dollars for education, who were quick to say, “Hey, I signed up for the tuition and the training, not to go to war!”

    A number of WWI veterans joined the Communist Party after that war, just as a number of Vietnam vets joined the VVAW or whatever they called themselves (I still remember video of John Kerry hurling away his combat ribbons).

    For too many years, the military, especially the Army, over-emphasized in its recruitment what a great way service was to get money for college or learn a job skill (“Join the Navy, see the world!”). Now, finally, we are seeing a little more honesty in advertising.

    As much as I hate the term, America is a “diverse” country. And it should be no surprise that that diversity include diversity of opinion, even in the military.

  7. Ah, Jesse, Jesse, sticking your snout in the ground to dig up any anti-war nuggets you can find. And, as usual, digging up not truffles, but trifles.

  8. Upon rereading the Wallace-Wells piece, it is striking what a non-story it really is. If you take any large organization with more than a million employees (and millions of former employees), you will always find a few to tell you what you want to hear. This was one of those stories that was done in advance, where the writer already had pre-conceived opinions that he just needed a few quotes to validate.

  9. Tom: Wallace-Wells (a) talks explicitly and in depth about the diversity of opinion within the military, (b) gives an illuminating history of past efforts to measure that opinion without skimming over how clumsy those efforts have been, and (c) describes in some detail how he came to his conclusions. He clearly did more than look for a few people who will tell him what he wants to hear; indeed, if you assume he’s a Democratic partisan, he included several statements by people who did not tell him what he wants to hear. (Did you read the sidebar?) He also shows some clear-cut examples (cf. the newspaper editorial board) of influential Republicans in military territory having a public change of heart.

    Anon @ 7:06: If the post wasn’t a very convincing argument against the war, that’s probably because it wasn’t meant to be an argument against the war. One clue to this is the fact that it included no arguments against the war. Another is that it linked to an article that included no arguments against the war. I realize that these are subtleties.

  10. What perks up my ears are the columns saying Iraq is not another Vietnam. Tom Friedman has one in today’s NY Times.
    Vietnam was my war so I’m obsessive/compulsive about it.
    Iraq is another Vietnam in the sense that an entire US administration is caught in quicksand… and progressively panicking.
    There is no light at the end of the steenking tunnel. We cannot win hearts and minds.
    And it’s so petty. The real problems continue to be with North Korea and Iran.
    Back in the Vietnam era, the real problems were the USSR and Red China.
    There continue to be problems with the latter big two, but they are less of a problem for the important reason they were not occupied by US “Sunday School teacher/faith-based” administrations.

  11. There’s also a lot of moms and dads in Red States, which supply a disproportionate amount of military manpower, getting angry letters home from their kids.

    Another year of this shit, and even Dean might be able to beat him.

  12. Harkening back to the LBJ years, which will hold sway?: guns or butter or guns and butter?

    Shrub’s second term hinges on either the economy, which tax cuts have improved, duh, or foreign affairs.

    Which shall take precedence?

  13. Speaking of subtleties, Jesse, how about:

    Write an anti-war article that does not appear to be an anti-war article, but the very nature of its content makes it become an anti-war article.

    “Hey, didja read that piece about how even the military is turning against Bush over Iraq?”

    Okay, so now I’ve become totally paranoid. Where’s my medicine?

  14. warren;

    do us a favor and frag yourself.

    As for the assertion that the GOP is losing military votes, that is wishful thinking by the opposition. Skyrocketing GDP, actual progress in Iraq whether or not CBS reports it accuately etc, they, Bush’s opposition, are scrambling wildly to make something negative stick.

    The overall pattern I’ve seen in the media along these lines (trying to find unhappy service men) is that they usually concentrate on the reservists and national guard members. These are the guys who join for some college money or to get out of town once in awhile or for many differing reasons, none of which actually have anything to do with living a military life, let alone living it in a time of war.

    Semper Fi

  15. The Washington Monthly, christ that’s the liberal’s dream book.

  16. Wow, Ruthless, that’s amazing that you can tell that we will fail in Iraq when we have been in charge for less than 6 months. Read some of the stuff that was published 6 months after WWII claiming we had lost the peace in Europe, and get some historical perspective.

    Doesn’t he still have his medals? I thought there as a foofaraw recentlyabout how he staged that scene.

  17. You neocon supporters make me sick! it basically fact (ever see the news???) that Bush is crushing civil rights, starting an Empire, launching illegal and immoral wars and we have to stop it! Yes this means sometimes exaggerating or even lying a little but it MUST BE DONE!

  18. rst: I can’t imagine any of the Democratic candidates getting much of the military vote, with the partial and limited exception of Clark. The real danger for the GOP is that the voters will stay home.

    Er … I mean, the danger is that they won’t vote. A lot of them don’t have the option of staying home.

    Also, Chris was being sarcastic.

  19. As the article points out, however, the Dems don’t have to get much of the military vote– for instance, in Florida or Arkansas, a tiny tilt in the military vote would have changed the outcome of the last election. Can Bush afford to lose any voters? I don’t see where he’s picked up any new ones.

  20. The medals Kerry threw were mailed to him by another veteran, who couldn’t make the event and asked him to throw them for him.

  21. RC – Kerry kept his medals, threw his ribbons. I’m not sure exactly what that means.

    “The overall pattern I’ve seen in the media along these lines (trying to find unhappy service men) is that they usually concentrate on the reservists and national guard members. These are the guys who join for some college money or to get out of town once in awhile or for many differing reasons, none of which actually have anything to do with living a military life, let alone living it in a time of war.”

    So what you’re saying is, there may be some movement away from the GOP among the Guard/Reservists, but not among the active duty troops. That is still, overall, a movement away from Bush by the military as a whole. Perhaps it’s a small one, but then, Bush lost by well over 500,000 last time. He doesn’t just have to hold his ground, he has to catch up.

    My spidey sense tells me objective dissent is stationed either stateside, or in a friendly country. Prediction: military mail ballots from Germany, Japan, and stateside bases get spoiled and lost at a much lower rate than those from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.