Tuesday, August 23, 2005

SIDESHOW. Ann Althouse:
Should Democrats bring back the Vietnam era anti-war imagery, with folksinging gatherings and get-out-now rhetoric? I can understand wanting to express yourself that way if that's what you feel, but you know it didn't win elections back then. There were some intense events, like the Democratic Convention of 1968, but then Nixon got elected.
And yet the U.S. eventually wound up bugging out of Vietnam without a trophy anyway. While some still blame this on Democratic treason, the choppers retreated from Saigon on the watch of President Gerald Ford.

It seems not to have occurred to Professor Althouse that for the most part the anti-Vietnam movement was not first and foremost a Democratic Party strategy, though a lot of protestors stormed that Party's weakened gates as a tactic. As things worked out, the War collapsed of its own weight without the intervention of President McGovern or his champions. That some longhairs who had hoped for that result stuck around to build careers within the Democratic Party just shows that the allure of politics for bright young things in the right place at the right time is eternal.

That's probably how things are going to work this time around, too. Chuck Hagel, no statesman he, is just getting an early seat on what he perceives to be a bandwagon. Sooner or later, non-statesmen of either party will probably get with it, too. The War was good politics when War President Bush was heading the ticket, but there are already plenty other fish getting fried in the run-up to 2006 and 2008, and whatever bloggers may bellow, the guys who want to get elected have their eyes on the main chance rather than any nation-building escapade. (Hillary Clinton's rightward lean on the issue is the same sort of gamesmanship, practiced by the leading candidate of a Party that has been comically labelled anti-war.)

The folks at Camp Sheehan are, for all their good intentions, players in a sideshow. Power holds the main stage, as it always has. Why do you think Joan Baez is getting headlines out of this? She's got name recognition. She knows it, the reporters know it. The stories get thrown out there, and bloggers snatch and raise them in their teeth, baying through the shredded newsprint that Democrats are smelly old hippies that you should have nothing to do with.

The blogdogs are pleased, their audiences are pleased -- for a while. Public relations is all very fine, but our citizens' current war fatigue probably has less to do with poor Cindy Sheehan, or with any imagined plot by MSM reporters to deny the public the happy-puppy Iraq stories war boosters demand, or with (it is almost embarrassing to say) anything a stupid blog can accomplish, than with a human, not to say American, nose of our people for a con job.

It is not a very sharp nose, not quick to offense, but once its nostrils are disturbed, antipathy kicks in fast. As the Backstreet Boys and Menudo could only glitter at the summit of fame for a moment, however protracted, so the Iraq War, in its disastrous third season, has seen its Q rating suddenly plummet. Well-lit fakes can only hold our people's attention for a while; then comes the puzzled look into the chest of drawers -- did I really buy a T-shirt bearing this tawdry image? Off it goes to the Salvation Army or the dump. And the politicians see the ashcans being emptied, and take notes.

We talk about the War as a crucial event, and of course it is. But the way things work, your reason, your cause, your snark, your cri de coeur, your blog post is just another yelp from the balcony. Back on the main stage -- not even on it, but behind it -- the real work is being done, and the real money is changing hands.

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