Why Support for Republicans on the Terror Issue Holds Up in Spite of Everything That's Gone Wrong.

09/30/2006 02:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ever since the 17th century progressives have needed to believe in the essential goodness of human nature--or at least in its potential for goodness. In the current context, that means progressives need to believe that Republicans succeeded because they manipulated the American people into voting against their own interests in general and frightened them into supporting the Bush "War on Terror" in particular.

But if it were just a matter of fear that support would have unraveled by now. The latest NIE flatly asserted that the war in Iraq had made Americans less safe at home, and it is only the latest note in a melody line of failure--from Osama's escape to the Taliban resurgence to zero port security to a military so badly organized it is close to meltdown. If fear were the primary factor, these blatant failures, which everybody knows about, would have turned the tide.

There has to be something else at work. And there is. And it's not pretty.

Majority support for Republicans on security is grounded in a simple intuition. Americans sense that most Republican politicians don't care if, say, half the detainees in Guantanamo are innocent peasants caught up in some sweep, some Operation Righteous Lightning or whatever. At a personal level. In their hearts. They don't care. It's fine with them.

Whereas most Democratic politicians aren't comfortable with that thought. They have qualms. They do care. That's why they're Democrats.

The American people sense this difference. And the majority of them are with the Republicans. They don't care either. They don't care how many innocent brown-skinned strangers of Middle Eastern aspect are imprisoned in holes or chained in stress positions for years on end as long as it might enhance, even by a tiny iota, the chances of preserving their "way of life."

And that's the way it is...