Sunday, July 30, 2006

Selective Memory--Dems Support War!!

The NYTimes today has a story, Partisan Divide on Iraq Exceeds Split on Vietnam
including this factoid: "An analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans viewed the Vietnam War — specifically, whether sending American troops was a mistake — never exceeded 18 percentage points between 1966 and 1973. In the most recent Times/CBS poll on Iraq, the partisan gap on a similar question was 50 percentage points."

But that's not the most surprising thing. Even though I lived through the 60's and should know better, I suspect I'm part of a vast majority of Americans who would say that Democrats started opposing the Vietnam War around 1966. But the Times includes a graph, which I couldn't find on-line, that shows that Dems didn't clearly move to opposition until 1971 (Cambodian invasion I suspect). It's an example of Dan Gilbert's (Stumbling on Happiness) thesis that we reconstruct memory.

1 comment:

George Buddy said...

Bill, you are correct in that memory. The war was almost over when everyone went against it. Timing is everything, hahaha.

However, anti-war (and other counter-culture) events in 1966, 1967 and of course the actions of 1968, stunned the nation in the sense that there hadn't been a modern war where the US public was so hostile. This novelty didn't need a majority, just a hefty minority. I'm sure the polls were running somewhere between 35 to 40% in favor of leaving Vietnam, which was shocking for a Cold War type conflict.

Yet today's hostility racks up easy majorities that might as well be in the minority for all the influence it seems to have. You will recall the massive demonstrations in the US and around the world before the Iraq invasion. They had zip effect, which evidently is one reason that we haven't really seen anymore mass rallies.

Times change, tactics change, but motivations seem to stay the same.