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Democrats Dump Anti-War Lovers

March 24, 2010

Democratic participation in anti-war movement sharply drops after the Obama inauguration.

Moral intuition precedes reasoning. We make snap judgments and our inner Dershowitz casts about for reasons to make our case. People can change their minds, yes, but by and large we are confabulating post hoc rationalizations based on some mixture of cultural prejudice and cognitive bias. That’s the rough conclusion from folk like Jonathan Haidt and Michael Gazzaniga.

Which is why I’m not surprised by the findings in this interesting working paper by Fabio Rojas. It appears Democrats left the anti-war movement once Obama was in office. Rojas sums it up  at his blog:

The key argument is that the decline of the antiwar movement can be attributed, in part, to the fact that Democrats have stopped using the peace movement as a platform for anti-Bush sentiment. In other words, at its peak, the ranks of the antiwar movement were swelled by partisans. Once Obama won the presidency, and other issues emerged, the movement shrank when Democrats stopped showing up.

My overly simplistic theory is that members of the voting Donk loathed George Bush (moral intuition) and then looked around for the most readily available reasons (post hoc rationalizing on war). Now you might say that’s not true. They hated Bush because of the war. But how can that be? Obama has not dramatically changed course in either Iraq or Afghanistan. If these wars were such flagrant moral wrongs five years ago, how come they cease to be after the inauguration? As long as “our guy” is waging it, war is okay? The truth is that they became anti-war because they loved Obama. Not the other way around.

This is something libertarian minded voters should keep in mind now that Republicans are paying lip-service to the virtues of small government and fiscal responsibility. Just as the anti-war movement was dumped, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tea Party enthusiasm drop after someone like Mitt Romney gets elected.

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