The war in Iraq has been increasingly unpopular with the public, but we rarely hear about it being unpopular with the military. Military personnel generally have stayed out of politics. But yesterday The Center for Responsive Politics issued a report outlining a shift in which presidential candidates the military supports and how that might affect the election.
CRP points out that members of the military historically have strongly favored Republicans, with 75% of their contributions. The number has fallen to 59% since 2004. Does this change indicate eroding support for the war in Iraq?
With $27,000 to date, Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) leads all candidates, Democrats and Republicans, in donations from the military. CRP interviewed Lt. Col. Joyce Griggs, who said of Obama: "I feel that he's the most progressive candidate and he stands for change. I believe he is that breath of fresh air that we need to get this country back on course."
Some are surprised that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas leads the GOP in donations from the active military. Paul remains the only GOP candidate against the war in Iraq. He holds a slim lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, the candidate most associated with the recent "surge." Paul has raised $19, 250 to McCain's $18,600.
CRP suggests that these donations may be a way for members of the military to express their frustration with administration policies, while continuing to perform admirably in the field. Ronald Krebs, an authority on the sociology of war and the military, told CRP:
"My guess is if you asked most of these folks, they'd continue to identify as Republican. But the fact there's been longstanding tension between this administration and the uniformed services and the fact that nearly all Republican candidates have not distanced themselves from the war has obviously affected their standing with those in the military."
The tension in the military has been particularly high during the Bush administration -- much of it while Donald Rumsfeld ran the Department of Defense. The most recent tension can be seen in discussions of the surge.President Bush and the media have made much of the report that Gen. David Petraeus delivered earlier in the week. But Bush doesn't give direct orders to Petraeus. Petraeus' boss happens to be Adm. William Fallon, the director of Central Command.
Fallon was notably absent from the hearings in Congress on Monday and Tuesday.
Some noted that the two men's predecessors, Gen. George Casey and Gen. John Abizaid, had testified together. Fallon has been pushing for a faster drawdown of American troops from Iraq, contrary to the statements of Petraeus and President Bush.
CRP also found similar numbers for civilian employees of the Department of Defense, whose donations to Republicans dropped from 79% to 62%.
recently wrote that the "surge" in Iraq has failed because it has not led to the political reconciliation in Iraq that Bush envisioned. I think it's too early to tell whether the surge of military support against the war will lead to political reconciliation here at home.