It reminds me a lot of the situation during the impeachment crisis in '98-99. I was reporting on it at the time for the American Prospect and Salon.com. So I watched the dynamic pretty close up. And it was very, very similar -- even, perhaps, especially in the ways the numbers lined up. I went into the story with visions of Tom Delay as The Hammer, crucifying Republican moderates to push them to vote for the impeachment most of them obviously didn't have much stomach for. But the truth of it was a little different. He didn't need to break a lot of arms. It was actually a pretty calm and straightforward presentation -- focused largely on polls. Sure, most of the country was against impeachment. But for the core of people who got these reps and senators elected every two or six years, it was an absolute live or die issue. Go against them on this issue and the breach with a lot of these voters would never be repaired.
The flip side of the argument was that by November 2000 most people who opposed impeachment would have moved on to other issues. And the folks for whom it was a live or die issue on the other side were never going to vote for these Republicans anyway.
It was a convincing argument for virtually any Republican in Congress. And in terms of the predicted fade of interest in impeachment among middle of the road voters, it was on the mark.
The difference here, of course, is that I very much doubt Iraq is going to be a fading issue by November 2008. And even among independents, support for the war barely gets out of the teens. So a lot of these folks are looking at pretty bleak encounters with the electorate in a little over twelve months.
Impeachment faded because Democrats ran from it instead of running on it. There were literally no mainstream voices reflecting what most of the country thought about the issue.
Iraq is strangely similar. A huge majority wants out, and the Villagers to stay in. The disconnect between what the people want and what the Villagers know is what's best for them is stark, as it was during the great blow job crisis.
Iraq the issue won't fade, but Iraq the political issue might because the Villagers will do their best to make it fade.