In recent years, Republicans have enjoyed a big advantage with military personnel and veterans. By painting Democrats as weak on defense and wrapping themselves in the flag, they have outmaneuvered Democrats in states with a significant number of military or former military voters, including reserve forces and National Guard members (e.g., Texas, Florida, Virginia).

It came as a shock, then, when the Military Times reported on Monday: “In the latest results — based on 1,018 active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August — nearly half of respondents (49.9 percent) had an unfavorable view of the president, compared to about 38 percent who had a favorable view. Questions in the poll had a margin of error of up to 2 percent.” Forty-two percent had a very unfavorable view of President Trump. The bottom line: “Among active-duty service members surveyed in the poll, 41 percent said they would vote for Biden, the Democratic nominee, if the election was held today. Only 37 percent said they plan to vote to re-elect Trump.”

There are plenty of reasons that military and ex-military might dislike Trump, who infamously got five deferments to get out of serving in Vietnam. Trump failed to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin on bounties put on the heads of U.S. troops. He has smeared the intelligence community, betrayed national security by extorting Ukraine, used the military as props for border security, attacked our NATO alliance, groveled before Putin, abandoned the Kurds when bugging out of Syria, pulled troops out of Germany and attacked voting by mail — a principal way in which troops overseas vote. He commuted the sentences of convicted war criminals, an insult to every military man or woman who upholds his or her oath. He smeared and removed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his White House post after he testified truthfully about Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president. He skipped a commemoration ceremony for those killed in World War I because it was raining. He used the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, to try to legitimize his gassing of peaceful protesters. He insulted the late John McCain and all POWs because he said he doesn’t like people who get captured.

The Military Times poll confirms some of their concerns. For example, “Only about 17 percent of those surveyed felt the White House has properly handled reports that Russian officials offered bounties for Afghan fighters to target and kill American troops, an issue Trump has dismissed as unreliable intelligence. Nearly 47 percent disagreed with his statements.” When it comes to deploying troops domestically to quell protests, as Trump has suggested repeatedly, 74 percent of respondents were opposed. Interestingly, “Troops agreed with Trump’s assessment of China as a national security threat (nearly 87 percent called it a significant concern) but ranked Russia (81 percent) well above Iran (58 percent). Only about 21 percent of troops saw immigration as a significant national security issue, but 48 percent identified white nationalists as a concern.”

In short, military voters understand that Trump poses a national security threat. He cannot identify or does not want to confront real threats (e.g., Russia, White nationalists), and invents threats that undermine national unity and waste resources (e.g., the “deep state”). It is quite a rebuke to a president who has tried so desperately to associate himself with military pomp and pageantry, from his militarized Fourth of July event in 2019 to his desire, according to an upcoming book by a friend of the first lady, to have an inauguration that looks “like North Korea.”

Trump treats the military like toy soldiers and their equipment like props. He tries to glorify himself by associating with them while his administration causes havoc in its ranks (e.g., expelling transgender personnel, threatening to deport “dreamers” currently serving, ordering surprise withdrawals). Trump refuses to grasp basic concepts such as honor, military discipline and the chain of command, making America weaker and endangering the lives of those who put their lives on the line to protect America. No wonder so many military men and women want a new commander in chief.

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As President Trump threatens to unleash the military on American cities roiled in civil unrest, it's clear that he's embracing his inner Nixon. (The Washington Post)

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