The Liberal Enthusiasm Gap

DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: The folks at Public Policy Polling recently announced that Democrats are facing an “enthusiasm gap” going into the 2012 presidential (re)election, with fewer than 50 percent of polled Dems announcing they are “very excited” about voting in the 2012 election.   A recent Gallup poll has Obama at 40 percent approval overall.  Apparently, a whole lot of Democrats, independents, and moderates are just not that hot on the idea of voting Team Obama next year.

…As someone who really wishes she couldn’t say “I told you so,” I cannot imagine why they’re not falling all over themselves to fill in the Obama ballot bubble.

Like a whole lot of progressives, I never expected Obama to be anybody’s leftist savior.  What track record he had was moderate at best, so I’m unamused but not surprised he turned out to be ideologically somewhere to the right of Richard Nixon (who, it ought to be remembered, gave us the EPA, legal protections for endangered species, and the national transportation system.  Also that whole China thing).  I knew we were getting a President who can talk a good woman-trusting, gay-rights-supporting, Gitmo-shutting-down, war-ending game, but who wasn’t likely to do anything more than avoid actions most Americans actively oppose.


Even I did not see coming what has been, for a lot of those on the left, the last straw: Obama’s debt-ceiling “negotiation” move of putting both Social Security and Medicare – the flagship accomplishments of the modern Democratic party – on the bargaining table.  Unilaterally.

Maybe I shouldn’t even have been surprised by that, given that “Obama is cool with cutting Medicare and Social Security” is a totally reasonable conclusion to draw from Obama’s own statements about what he wanted to accomplish with the debt ceiling deal.  But hey, you know?  I didn’t vote for Captain Progressive, but I thought that at least I was voting for a Democrat. And I thought that voting for a Democrat meant, at least, that he could be expected not to sacrifice the already-inadequate support we as a society provide for the poorest and most vulnerable among us, a support system I and millions of other Americans of all political persuasions pay taxes into each year on faith that that support will be there for us as well, should we ever hit the skids, become totally disabled, or reach age 65.  And I know I’m not alone there.

That said, when it’s pretty clear that your base is not amused with your refusal even to frame the debate differently both when you actually have a majority in Congress and when you don’t, and when you repeatedly engage in hippie-punching against the “professional left” on the grounds that their insistence on holding your feet to the fire ever since you threw your hat in the Presidential ring is merely proof that they “don’t understand 12-dimensional chess,” and when your response to the accusation that you’re shredding the social safety net and selling out the basic foundations of the party of which you claim to be a member is that it is not politically expedient to provide a minimum of care for the most vulnerable members of the society in which we all live, then yeah, maybe a sudden drop in pro-voting-for-you “enthusiasm” is entirely to be expected.  Maybe – and I know this is a kooky progressive pipe-dream of an idea, but bear with me – it even means you should reconsider what you are doing.

Do I think Obama is really going to get anywhere with the current House of Representatives?  No, especially since Mitch McConnell has said, in so many words, that his top priority is to make Obama a one-term president.  But I refuse to believe it is unreasonable to expect a Democratic president to not offer up the last shreds of the social safety net to fuel the bonfire of “bipartisan compromise.”  In fact, I think that’s the absolute minimum we should expect out of a Democratic president.  Expecting him to actually support Democratic policies – well, we’ll cross that progressive pipe dream when we come to it.

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