From a political science symposium:
Many journalists and politicians believe that during the Bush administration, a majority of Americans supported torture if they were assured that it would prevent a terrorist attack….But this view was a misperception…we show here that a majority of Americans were opposed to torture throughout the Bush presidency…even when respondents were asked about an imminent terrorist attack, even when enhanced interrogation techniques were not called torture, and even when Americans were assured that torture would work to get crucial information. Opposition to torture remained stable and consistent during the entire Bush presidency. Even soldiers serving in Iraq opposed the use of torture in these conditions…a public majority in favor of torture did not appear until, interestingly, six months into the Obama administration.
The people who had the most accurate perception of public attitudes turned out to be the people nobody believed or supported throughout the Bush administrationthe 29% who were most opposed to torture.
This strikes me as a classic example of how much of the political class simply assumes the worst of the American people and acts in morbid fear of the far right, when fear is utterly unjustified. The contemporary right's politics of total war - in which there is no accountability for the past, relentless focus on slogans, and extreme positioning - has intimidated non-authoritarians.
The right response to bullies is always courage - and argument. And yet the Democrats and decent Republicans too often reflexively adopt the defensive, cowardly crouch. It's wrong and it empowers the bullies.
(Hat tip: Sides)