COHEN: Military is ‘important’ to Dems

One of the worst trends in modern America is the civilian-military divide. Last week, I attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and saw the party trying to bridge that divide, or at least to recognize it. Amid the lofty politicking and speechmaking typical of any political convention was the Democratic Party’s wholehearted embrace of the military and the values it embodies.

Democrats have come a long way since Michael Dukakis’ cringe-worthy tank ride. This time, Democrats showed a real connection to our military servicemen and women: Michelle Obama was introduced by a woman with four sons serving in the armed forces, and a group of veterans — including Vice President Joe Biden’s son — was greeted by a crowd holding “Thank You” signs.

There was none of the booing one might expect from a party often derided as full of peaceniks and hippies; instead, the whole arena seemed entirely comfortable with and grateful for these veterans’ sacrifices. This was a choreographed political event and was clearly meant to evoke certain emotions, but Democrats’ overt respect for military service highlighted a larger truth about a new Republican Party when it comes to military issues: The Republican Party has begun to flounder.

One striking example of Republican politicians’ hypocrisy is their attitude toward the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. In 2006, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, “The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.” And then in 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen went before McCain’s committee to tell him just that — he ought to change the policy.

And yet, two years later, the platform of the party that nominated McCain four years ago still hasn’t budged. “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness,” it reads.

Contrast that disrespect of the military leadership with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, mentioned frequently at the Democratic convention. This initiative — just a few years old — spurred companies to hire 125,000 veterans in just one year. Meanwhile, at the Republican convention a week earlier, Mitt Romney did not bother to mention the troops once in his speech — because, he said, he wanted to use the speech to talk about the “important” issues.

Right now, just one percent of America serves in uniform, compared to the nine percent who served during World War II. Obviously, the main reason for this disparity is that our military is now an all-volunteer force, a fact that makes most politicians and military commanders very proud. But it also means an increasingly smaller share of the country feels any direct consequences of the wars.

The War in Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history, yet life in America continues mostly unchanged. We don’t need to ration at home. We don’t buy war bonds. Most of us don’t need to look at the wounds inflicted by IEDs. The worst the majority of the country feels is war fatigue. Combating this civilian-military divide has been one of President and Michelle Obama’s biggest causes. I am not blind to the fact that it’s a politically beneficial cause, but just because trying to prevent military suicides and strengthening military families is good politics doesn’t mean it is not also the right thing to do.

What is offensive is not just the fact that Romney did not mention the troops; it is that he did not even think they are one of his “important” issues — that at a political convention, he thought he would be able to get away without mentioning the one percent because he was speaking to the other 99 percent. The Democratic Party, at least, made the ideas of sacrifice and determination — military and otherwise — centerpieces of its convention. That party understands that you do not speak only to the one percent in the military or the 99 percent who are not; presidential candidates have a responsibility to speak to 100 percent of Americans.

Sam Cohen is a sophomore in Calhoun College. Contact him at samson.cohen@yale.edu. 

Comments

  • yellowasp

    This is utter BS. The dems gutted the military under Clinton, and the military has not forgotten it. By a margin of 2-1 the military always goes republican.

  • LtwLimulus90

    LOL the last paragraph is priceless. Are you serious? You’re actually trying to convince people that DEMOCRATS support the military to a larger degree that the Republicans? That THEY are the party closer to the military in spirit? What about the rapid demand for military budget cuts coming from the Democratic Party? Or the fact that the military was mentioned many more times by OTHER speakers at the RNC than at the DNC, and that the applause was crazy and the cheering deafening, they were not just “comfortable” with the military being there, they were ecstatic to have them. Anyone who watched the two would note immediately how tempered and unenthusiastic the body of the DNC was in comparison to the RNC when the military came up. I’m shocked that you even believe what you’re writing

  • River_Tam

    This entire piece is laughable, from beginning to end. What is its thesis? That the Republicans don’t care about the military? That repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is designed to promote the MILITARY? Of course not – it’s a sop to a large and influential Democratic group: gay-rights advocates. At the DNC tribute to veterans, the ships displayed on the background screen were Russian warships.

    Military vets pick Romney over Obama by 20-25% in the polls. Active military go even harder for Romney. There’s a reason that Romney is fighting to maintain early voting for active overseas military in Ohio and Obama’s fighting tooth and nail to remove it. (Not saying it says anything as to who ‘cares more’ about the military, just that Obama and Romney BOTH know that military votes = Romney votes).

    http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/MilitaryGroupsMotiontoIntervene.pdf

  • yellowasp
  • yalengineer

    I don’t fully agree with the article but it does highlight some key points. The military has always been in favor of Republicans due to the massive budgets that get through their way. However, whether or not the Republican party is taking a serious long-term approach to the military asides monetary is rather suspect.

    I’m working on some DOD projects and currently the Republicans aren’t a big fan of many of those projects and we’re getting a lot of heat for doing the research. Major policy issues like the size of the aircraft carrier fleet and the philosophy of maintaining the capacity to wage two wars at once have recently been revised in conjunction between the Pentagon and the White House. The DOD now spends more money on healthcare for soldiers than spending on salaries for soldiers. The DOD is one of the largest consumers of energy in the Nation. They have vested interest in the healthcare and global energy problem. The Republicans merely suggest throwing more money at the problem. The Democrats have been actively listening to the Pentagon’s requests and craving out solutions.

  • RexMottram08

    Sam Cohen,

    We don’t have war bonds. We have trillions in Treasuries with the Chinese, municipalities going bankrupt, and billions in student loans for mediocre university degrees.

    Which is the better trade?

  • dominoscomboplatter

    Military always votes conservative. The Romney campaign knows this. America knows this. Stop kidding yourself, Sam Cohen.

  • DocHollidaye

    Well I guess you really need to read up on the activity with the contractors who run the business’s on military installations, those are unions who are full of democrats who are in very local influential positions to push their political machine. Look at the bar tenders, look at the local help, look at the local military gold diggers and I believe you do have a formula for changing a great deal of military members towards democratic support.

    Look at the Hollywood support of the army wives, and what business interactions strong influential democrats have over certain branches of our military and I would definitely say that the conditions are ripening for a political change.

    Otherwise, traditionally no the democrats have not been big supporters of our military but I believe that they have been working hard to change how the military members view them. Even if they manage to gain the votes, and even with a great political campaign does that mean they will actually lend support that the military needs? Probably not.

    But if they run a good and convincing campaign they will have the votes. It’s unfortunate but that appears to be the most important bottom line. Delivering on promises runs far in the rears of the importance put on the vote.