"We support our troops when they
shoot their officers" proclaimed a banner carried by protesters
at a pro-homicide march in San Francisco recently.
Whoops, sorry, it was a "pro-peace"
Perhaps you'll forgive me if I can't tell
the difference. So many of the "peace" marches contain
assaults on police officers that it sometimes seems the peace
protesters have taken a page from the Baath party handbook.
Like the Baath party, political demonstrations
don't have the power they once did. This isn't actually the fault
of the leftists, but they've been too clueless to notice it is
not the sixties anymore.
Demonstrations can be effective political
tools, but only in certain contexts.
If, for example, a politician is unaware
that a large number of his constituents hold a certain point of
view, a demonstration can certainly wake him up. In these days
of omnipresent polling, however, you'd have to be in a coma not
to know the public's opinion of the war.
In practice, this means that a demonstration
of 100 people seeking a new stop light at the corner of Fifth
and Main is more likely to have an impact on a politician's thinking
than 100,000 people demonstrating on a frequently-polled topic
such as the war.
Alternatively, in situations - doggone
rare in the United States - in which people are afraid to speak
their views, a mass demonstration can reassure those of like mind
that others share their views, and that it is safe to speak out.
In this case, I guess, the "peace"
demonstrations are reassuring to the leftists, but the political
objective is supposed to be to recruit folks who already secretly
agree, but haven't yet spoken out.
Of course, its just possible that most
Americans haven't been afraid to share their true views, so they
don't need the reassurance of a few thousand demonstrators and
a contingent of experienced looters to give them the courage to
Americans, of course, are not French.
Most of us don't believe that opposition to the United States
government is the highest form of morality. We believe war is
a horrible, nasty business, but one that sometimes is better than
Anyone who wants to know where the American
people stand on the war would do better to check the polls than
the streets. Gallup says President Bush's approval ratings in
three separate Gallup polls are around 70 percent, up from 58
percent before the start of the war.1 A March 23 ABC
News-Washington Post poll2 found that 71 percent supported the decision
to go to war, with 26 percent opposed. In the same poll, two percent
said they had attended an anti-war demonstration.
Most interesting, when asked if the anti-war
demonstrations had influenced their view of the war, seven percent
of the public said the demonstrations had made them more likely
to oppose the war, while almost three times as many - 20 percent
- said the demonstrations had made them more likely to support
So Americans who take to the streets to
protest the war in Iraq may be doing their country a service,
but it is not the service they intend. They are undermining leftism
and - unintentionally - helping grow support for Bush and the
policies he promotes. More power to them.
Amy Ridenour is president of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
1 Jeffrey M. Jones, "Rally Boosting Bush Approval
Ratings," Gallup News Service, April 3, 2003, available online
at http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr030403.asp as of April
2 "Washington Post-ABC News Poll: Iraqi War - Day
Four," The Washington Post, March 24, 2003, available online
as of April 3, 2003.