Yesterday a McClatchy News headline screamed: "Just in time for Obama, economy becomes Issue No. 1."
The focus of the story was on how the shift in public concern is supposed to aid the Democrat. And it may.
But I have to wonder whether this is a misreading of the results. What if most people in the United States, vividly aware as we are of the painful mess our economy is in, blame a good part of the economic pain on the war? This was certainly true in April. A CBS News poll asked, "How much has the Iraq war contributed to U.S. economic problems?" Fully 67 percent answered "a lot." By and large, it looks as if the U.S. people believe the war is a big part of why gas, food, and even imported Wal-Mart plastic goods cost more. They may not understand what pushing the country into ever deeper debt for the good of the Republican plutocratic base has done to the value of our money, but they know something big has been done wrong and the war is at the center of the mess.
Tom Hayden just put out a good essay on how all this interacts with the election. For the elite imperial consensus, citizen awareness that we've been had creates a "crisis of democracy," both in occupied Iraq and in the United States.
I think Hayden has nailed this. It's going to be hard to get our guy to follow through with his withdrawal promise. On the other hand, the underlying understanding the people at large have -- the knowledge that empire on a global scale is no longer affordable -- is right. So a President Obama will be pushed back by reality to scale down faraway wars.
Every iteration of a peace movement in my lifetime has tried to tell the U.S. people that our wars undermined their economic wellbeing. For all our efforts, it has always been a hard message to sell. Getting it required making connections that were too remote from daily life. I don't think we've sold it much better in the context of the Iraq war, but it seems that people more and more do "get it," no thanks to the peace movement.
Reality bites. Hard.