Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Anti-Iraq War Referenda — Running Behind John Kerry

The anti-Bush and anti-Iraq War crowd will doubtless try to spin tonight’s results on anti-war referenda around the state as a victory, pointing to the fact that more localities passed an anti-war measure than rejected one.

Based on votes on the Journal-Sentinel website, anti-war referenda appear to have won in 24 localities, and lost in 9.

Both the list of places where the referenda won and the list of places were they failed are laced with small localities with few votes.

If there is some upsurge of anti-war sentiment in the nation, we should find that localities that voted for Bush in 2004 are now approving an anti-war ballot measure. Otherwise, it’s just the garden variety partisan division.

A geunine groundswell of anti-war sentiment should move people who voted for Bush to defect and express their disapproval of the Iraq War.

This doesn’t appear to have happened.

It is true that Draper voted for Bush in 2004, and has now voted anti-war. Likewise, Edgewater, which went for Bush by 212 votes to 153 votes for Kerry, has endorsed the anti-war measure.

But on the other hand, Egg Harbor leaned toward Kerry in 2004, and has rejected the referendum.

A more sensible test, however, is to ask whether the anti-war referenda did better or worse than Kerry did. If better, it’s bad news for Bush. If worse, the anti-war movement hasn’t made any real converts. They just got the votes of people who didn’t like Bush anyway.

Consider Mt. Horeb, which voted for Kerry by a 60-40% margin. It has endorsed the anti-war referendum by only a 52.8-47.2% majority.

Looking at substantial population centers:

La Crosse, which went heavily for Kerry, has endorsed the anti-war referendum only narrowly. In 2004 the city favored Kerry by a 61.1% to 38.9% margin of the two-party vote (oddball minor parties omitted). Yet the anti-war referendum passed in the city by only 54.8% to 45.2%. The anti-war crowd didn’t even keep all the Kerry voters.

That bastion of liberalism, Madison, went with Kerry in 2004 by 75.0% to 25.0%. Yet it passed the anti-war referendum by only 68.4% to 31.6%.

Turning to conservative and Republican Watertown, which favored Bush by a 62.3% to 37.7% margin, we find the town rejected the anti-war referendum by an even more lopsided 74.8% to 25.2% margin.

Far from eating into Bush’s conservative base, the referendum seems to have firmed it up.

Of course, the issue is a bit more complicated in an election like this that shows low turnout. The vote is not merely a reflection of the voters’ sentiments, it’s also a test of which side turns out to vote.

But this sort of analysis can hardly be a comfort to the anti-war movement. Genuine staunch opposition to the war ought to get people to the polls. In this case it didn’t.


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