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The Demoralized Democratic Base

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The Associated Press is insisting that Americans don't give a shit about President Obama's Afghanistan War escalation. An outlier poll from CNN goes even father, asserting that Americans actually love the idea of intensifying the war. So maybe it's true -- maybe President Obama and Democrats won't face the same price Democrats faced, say, durning the NAFTA debacle when a Democratic president rolled "over the dead bodies" of the progressive base and then watched Democrats get crushed at the polls.

There's just one problem -- more specific polls about the state of the Democratic base show. For instance, new polls show much of the erosion in support for Democrats' health care effort is coming from the progressive base that believes Democrats have compromised away too much to the insurance industry. More broadly, those polls show a general demoralization among self-identified Democratic voters:

Among Republican respondents, 81 percent said they were definitely or probably going to vote, versus only 14 percent who were definitely or not likely to do so. Among independent voters, it was 65-23. Among Democrats? A woeful 56-40: Two out of every five Democrats are currently unlikely to vote.

A look at key Democratic constituencies shows how demoralized the party's base currently is. Among African-Americans, just 34 percent are likely to vote, versus 54 percent unlikely to do so. Republican-leaning white voters clocked in at 66-29. Only 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, a key constituency for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, are likely to vote, compared to 49 percent likely to sit things out.

These numbers (of course) may end up changing dramatically between now and the 2010 election. But they highlight an important point: Destroying a political base often isn't only about one single issue, even an issue as important as a war. It's about a set of issues and, even further, an overall feeling of demoralization -- one that can't be turned around a few weeks before an election with some cynical press releases and inspiring speeches.

So sure, the politics of the Afghanistan War are still fluid. But when you put the escalation next to Obama's wavering on the public option; next to his broken promises of transparency; next to his stances on the Patriot Act and Gitmo; next to his full-on abandonment of his NAFTA pledges -- well, you get the kind of demoralization that Kos's new poll shows.

NOTE: To hear more about this, listen in to my interview this morning on KKZN-AM760 with author Chris Hedges here. Tune into the show on AM760 every morning from 7am-10am MST (9am-12pm ET) at www.am760.net.

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