President Obama’s interview in the new issue of Rolling Stone is worth reading in its lengthy entirety,
if only because his admirers can find things to like, while his enemies can probably find an errant transitive verb that somehow proves he is readying our surrender to militant Islam.
But the key quotes appear at the end:
“It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we’ve got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.
“The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible….People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that’s what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we’ve got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.”
Hence, Obama’s message to the disenchanted liberal base: Shut up, buck up, and, on election day, show up. It’s a sign of political weakness that he even feels compelled to say this. Yet there’s no guarantee that liberals will feel sufficiently chastened by Obama’s remarks to flock en masse to the polls, with the aim of narrowing the apparent enthusiasm chasm.
Obama is absolutely correct when he warns that liberal apathy on election day will help deliver Congress to the GOP and thus squash any further progress on the issues that liberals hold dear – that’s what happened in the midterms of 1994; the Newt Gingrich “revolution” was aided and abetted by liberal apathy – but politics is all about the here and now.
Relations between Obama and his base are raw, particularly with respect to the young adults who made such a splash in 2008. According to the new NBC-Wall Street Journal survey, only 35 percent of young people are voicing a high interest in voting; by contrast, 65 percent of seniors have a high interest. Midterm electorates are typically older and whiter than presidential-year electorates, and Obama in 2008 didn’t do well among seniors anyway.
Many liberals, regardless of age, are already fuming about Obama’s stinging tone in Rolling Stone. For instance, Salon, the left-leaning online magazine, opined yesterday: “It would perhaps help, now, if the White House took responsibility for the ‘enthusiasm gap’ itself, instead of blaming liberals for it. It might also help if they went back in time a year…and proposed some sort of massive infrastructure and jobs program, back when those things could’ve helped the jobs situation enough to make the forthcoming Democratic blood bath less inevitable.”
Over at firedoglake, the popular liberal website, blogger David Dayen mocked Obama’s tone: “Really, dude? That’s your message? ‘I can’t stand you, now go vote for me?'”
On MSNBC last night, liberal activist Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that Obama is to blame for the base’s disenchantment, because, in his view, Obama caved so quickly on the issue of a government health care option in the reform plan: “You don’t give up a fight before having the fight…We never saw that fighting attitude from the president. That’s our issue with him. And unfortunately, his failure to fight is depressing turnout in this election, it’s not (the fault of)progressive leaders.”
And we have this general liberal indictment of Obama, in a letter to the editor published in today’s New York Times, but written prior to the Rolling Stone interview: “If President Obama had attempted (an economic stimulus package) on a grand scale to alleviate the widespread economic misery, he either would have succeeded or, if prevented by Republican filibusters, would have been able to direct our anger and frustration at their rightful target. But Mr. Obama asked for half measures and got far less than half, and it isn’t surprising that those who worked for his election are disgusted.”
The letter concludes: “That the Republicans who got us into this mess will benefit by his failure to lead with a progressive vision is indeed tragic.”
As the letter-writer, David Richter of Queens, clearly demonstrates, liberals are once again fully capable of becoming their own worst enemies – ensuring, with their lethargy, that they will have even more to complain about in the aftermath of a Republican congressional takeover. Perhaps that’s what is really “tragic.” Obama wasn’t wrong when he told Rolling Stone that the Democratic base often sees “the glass as half-empty…That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.”
And unless there is a miracle rapprochement in the next 34 days, conservatives can basically kick back with popcorn and enjoy.