War Games: Issues and Resources in the Battle for Control of Congress

War Games: Issues and Resources in the Battle for Control of Congress

Politics in the United States is frequently compared to war. Descriptions of politics in press and academic accounts rely on a vocabulary appropriated from military activities. Presidential and congressional “campaigns” are “fought” in “battleground” states. Candidates and parties “deploy” a series of “strategies” to increase their chances of “victory.” Resources are “marshaled” and the “troops” are sent out into the field to “mobilize” voters.

The reliance on such a vocabulary seems even more appropriate because of the competitiveness of the current political era. Since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in 1994, the two parties and their allied groups have “waged” intense “battles” to secure or maintain control of Congress. With soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and the general war on terror being waged, the vocabulary of war was also not far from the thoughts of voters. Politicians and parties, who perhaps previously had only used the vocabulary to discuss their races and tactics, found themselves using the vocabulary to explain their foreign policy positions to voters.

The title of this monograph reflects the dual meaning. The 2006 cycle contained the intense conflicts that have become a significant part of every election cycle since 1994 as parties and groups have battled to secure control of Congress. The parties, interest groups, and candidates in the 2006 cycle also encountered a political landscape shaped significantly by the war in Iraq. Few of the participants in these competitive contests could ignore the conduct of the war and its consequences.

By using this metaphor we do not intend in any way to diminish the gravity of war or the sacrifices of those currently engaged in the conflict. Their efforts remind us all of the importance of the democratic process and its real worth. Political campaigns are serious affairs as well, where candidates, parties, and interest groups vie for the responsibility of governing. Voters select the leaders who make decisions which can lead to war or peace. The contest to persuade voters often has the look and feel of a strategic game. In the 2006 cycle, that game was shaped in large measure by the serious and deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This monograph attempts to help describe and explain how the candidates, parties, and groups involved in this cycle played that strategic game in the context of a very real war.