With Iowa and New Hampshire behind us, the polls of likely Democratic voters in Tuesday’s primaries find these activists holding some opinions on key issues that are more in accord with GOP voters than the candidates they are choosing among. According to the LA Times/CNN polls, in Arizona, Missouri, and South Carolina, large majorities of Democratic voters prefer a candidate who would not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens (from 60 percent in Missouri to 75 percent in South Carolina). A majority of these voters in Missouri and South Carolina oppose civil unions for gays and majorities in Arizona and South Carolina prefer a nominee who supported the war with Iraq because Saddam posed a threat to the U.S.
Now, it is probable that likely primary voters in Missouri and South Carolina include a substantial number of blacks, many of whom hold traditional views on marriage informed by their religious beliefs and low-income blacks are most directly affected by low-wage illegal workers. The question on civil unions adopted the position of everyone in the Democratic field by explaining that such status is not marriage but would extend legal protections in the areas of inheritance, taxes, health insurance, and hospital visits. Only 35 percent of Democratic voters in Missouri and South Carolina supported that position, in contrast with 58 percent in Arizona. It’s too bad Democrats have learned that black voters can be taken for granted and there is little risk in threatening the livelihood or mores of such loyal supporters. And while President Bush is on the right side of the marriage debate, and John Kerry opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, he is hardly in a position to argue that he is committed to protecting American workers when he’s defending the “necessity” to exploit unskilled illegal workers.
The support for the war in Iraq among Democrats in Tuesday’s primary states reflects the national polls. Of course, John Kerry will run as a supporter of the war, but not Bush’s war. Obviously, Democrats are convinced that his war-hero status inoculates him against charges that he’s weak on national security. Republicans have begun to make a simple point: John Kerry’s war record is admirable, his 20-year Senate record on national security is not. Some of us are making an additional argument: John Kerry’s Vietnam War record is admirable, his antiwar record is disgraceful. I detect a reluctance on the part of some Kerry critics to make this latter case based, I think, on a lingering Vietnam syndrome, i.e. “If I didn’t serve at all, who am I to criticize someone who did?” I suggest: “I haven’t served in the military, but unlike the antiwar John Kerry I have always admired those who did.” Might it be that only those who served themselves (like Mac Owens) or couldn’t have (like me) are willing to hold Kerry accountable for his indictment of his fellow servicemen?