The Case for Liberal Apathy: An Overview of the Enthusiasm Gap
EUGENE, OREGON--Liberal Democrats are twice as likely as conservative Republicans to stay home this November. Establishmentarian liberals are urging left-of-center voters to ignore the President's failure to deliver--and his refusal to try--on the issues they care about.
"The biggest mistake we [Democrats] could make right now," urged Obama last week, "is to let impatience or frustration lead to apathy and indifference--because that guarantees the other side wins."
"Impatience"? That implies there's something to be impatient about. That Obama is moving too slowly. But that's not the case. Liberals don't see a slow process. They see no process.
And what, exactly, is this "other side"? On issue after issue, Obama has cut-and-pasted Bush's Republican policies. Which isn't surprising, given that he didn't appoint a single liberal to his Cabinet.
The real problem for the Dems is a perception gap.
The Democratic Party leadership thinks it deserves credit. They think they've accomplished a lot. "We've done the heavy lifting," bragged Nancy Pelosi, citing passage of the bailout, healthcare and financial regulation bills.
But liberal voters were against the bailout. They see the healthcare and financial reform bills as useless sellouts to corporations.
Loyal Democrats ask: Why are we still in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why is Guantánamo open? How come the President hasn't come up with a robust program to replace the millions of jobs lost during the last two years?
What's the difference between you and the Republicans?
A December 2009 piece by Frank Schaeffer titled "Obama Will Triumph--So Will America" perfectly summarizes the perception gap.
Obama, wrote Schaeffer, "thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan."
"But that wasn't good enough for his critics," he laments.
The best option in Afghanistan (as in Iraq) was and remains immediate withdrawal. But as we've learned from Bob Woodward's latest inside-the-White-House tome "Obama's Wars," getting the hell out was never considered. So no, it's not good enough. Not by half.
Schaeffer notes that Obama "gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights" and "banned torture of American prisoners."
Which is true. Sort of.
But there was no substance behind Obama's rhetoric. He could have signed an executive order abolishing "don't ask, don't tell." The torture "ban" exempts the CIA--the main agency responsible for waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." Even in the four military branches, Matthew Alexander told The New York Times earlier this year, nothing much has changed: "If I were to return to one of the war zones today--as an Air Force officer, I was sent to Iraq to head an interrogation team in 2006--I would still be allowed to abuse prisoners."
Schaeffer also claimed that Obama "stopped the free fall of the American economy."
Say what? Been to a mall lately? If you're wondering where everyone went, you can find them at the unemployment office.
The thing is, Schaeffer and his fellow Obama apologists believe this stuff. What they don't get is that no one else does.
"We cannot sit this one [election] out," Obama said recently. "We can't let this country fall backward because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight."
Dude, you're the one who didn't fight.
You didn't fight with a 59-41 Democratic Senate or a 255-178 Democratic House.
You didn't promise much--and you didn't even deliver on what you promised.
Remember your promise to stop the NSA's illegal domestic surveillance program? Your promise to end "don't ask, don't tell"? To let the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule?
On that last point: yet another Democratic sellout.
Rather than risk a tight vote before the election, they rescheduled the vote for after the election--after a GOP sweep. Which means the rich will keep their windfall.
Mr. President, you don't know the meaning of the word.