Overheard on the Circuit
The phenomenon is hardly new, for most military establishments are instinctively in favor of the status quo. But until the coming of the all-volunteer military, the point of imbalance was closer to the middle of the scale because there was less self-selection under conscription.
Moreover, according to a September 2004 AP/MSNBC report, eligible military voters are more inclined to exercise the franchise (70 percent in 2000) than the general public (51 percent in 2000). And one of the main reasons that the figure for the military was not higher was the failure of the military postal system to identify where soldiers were stationed and deliver the voting packets to them in time to mail them “back home.”
This rightward tilt, some are beginning to suggest, may reverse itself sharply this year, largely because of Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are tired, worn down by repeated deployments to war zones. Equipment is wearing out, and the improved blast-resistant models have been slow to reach the front lines. The military family structure is under severe siege. Horror stories about mismanaged health care for the physically wounded and mentally traumatized continue to surface regularly.
And the swing, if it does come, will be sharpest among the active-duty officer corps from the generals and admirals on down who feel the Republicans lied to them in 2004 about Iraq, Afghanistan, and the whole global war on terror. At the same time, the officers still are leery of the Democrats who are seen as anti-military liberals.
The question is whether or not they can get beyond the bumper-sticker slogans of the past, for if not, they may find themselves in the proverbial political wilderness.