This WSJ article was written by Robert Bartley in September, 2003. Pretty shrewd observations, and came to be more true than ever 14 months later.
[T]he self-identity of the Democratic base is still wrapped up in Vietnam. In fact Vietnam started as a liberal, Democratic war, so turning against it had to be justified by assertions of a higher morality, especially among those with student deferments from the draft. The notion that military force was immoral, even that American power was immoral, was deeply imbedded in the psyche of Democratic activists everywhere.
Now comes George Bush asserting that American power will be used pre-emptively to avert terrorist attacks on America, to establish American values as universal values. This so profoundly challenges the activists' self-image that they can only lash out in anger. Not many of them actively hope the U.S. fails in Iraq, of course, but they are in a constant state of denial that it might succeed.
What's more, this challenge is brought to them by a born-again MBA from Midland, Texas. This is a further challenge to their image of the best people, secular Ivy-league intellectuals. And to twist the knife, President Bush actually comes from an aristocratic family and went to prep school, Yale and Harvard. He has rejected these values for those of Texas.
Current Democratic anger will likely in the fullness of time prove to be the rantings of an establishment in the process of being displaced. Come to think of it, they sound like nothing so much as the onetime ire of staid Republicans at Franklin D. Roosevelt as "a traitor to his class."