OCTOBER 8, 2010 10:17PM

It's Not the "Enthusiasm Gap," Stupid!

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The notion that the democrats are suffering from an enthusiasm gap, or will suffer, electorally, from an enthusiasm gap is a misapprenhension, largely based on the notion that voters are loosely divisible into two tribes--liberal/conservative, democrat/republican, Obamaite/anti-Obamaite--where they remain, sometims affirming their tribal identities through massive turnout, sometimes declining to do so, owing to the dreaded lack of "enthusiasm."

I suspect, though, that anyone who conceives him/herself as still aligned with the big D as a party institution or Obama as a leader will show up in November to vote their identification, however tepidly they may feel about the accomplishments of the last two years. And to all those who have said, on OS and elsewhere, that such people should get over their disappointment and bestir themselves to get to the polls, well I'm not here to argue otherwise.

But, I would hasten to point out that many of us who voted for Obama in 2008, as I did, many of us who were wildly  enthusiastic about Obama in 2008, as I was (even arguing here on OS with Hillary Clinton supporters), are not simply less enthusiastic about Obama's party and government, not simply unenthusiastic, we are now in the position of being actively opposed to them, precisely insofar as, on matters dear to us, they have proven nearly as bad as, sometimes worse than, the Republicans. Not being members of some fixed political  tribe, we experience not an enthusiasm gap (we're still here but we're not happy), but  rather a disenchantment gap, a very different thing. We were enchanted into believing that Obama believed in what he said in 2008 and have found that not to be so (YOU'RE not here, so we're abandoning you). This is not a question as silly ol' Joe Biden puts it, of our not getting "every single thing we wanted." What a  condescending piece of crap that formulation is--as if we are pampered children favored abundantly by Obama et al and too spoiled to  enjoy it. The truth is we haven't gotten ANYTHING we wanted.

 Speaking for myself, I wanted an end to the Bush torture regime and instead I got a secret extra-judicial assassination regime aimed at US citizens who have not even been charged let alone tried.  I wanted Gitmo closed. Nope. I wanted renditions ended and I got them expanded. I wanted out of Iraq and I got a 50,000 troop exception that  is expected to last for at least a decade. I got  endless energy devoted to a war without foreseeable end, to be fought with  drones that ensure civilian casualties in the thousands. I can't  say I actively desired the FBI not to stage dawn raids on war protestors, because I never imagined that would happen under Obama, but that's what I got. I did want and assume that I  would get respect for the rule of law, both constitutional  and international. I thought  that was not much  to expect from  a former editor of the Harvard Law Review. Evidently it was. At any rate that was yet another  thing I didn't get, Mr. Biden. I wanted a civil libertarian and I got a road show Pinochet.

I wanted  single payer health care, or at least a public option and I got both traded away at the very start while Obama continued to lie that he was doing his best to save them. I wanted a stimulus that would  people back to work. I got an enhanced TARP that provided no accountability for how the banks would use our  money. Hence, I got egregious executive bonuses; I got banks sitting on piles of cash while the  foreclosure crisis deepened. I got a continuation of free trade policies crafted by and for the multinationals, policies that ensure that 9.6% unemployment rate, or something  very near it, will be chronic.

I got no educational reform worth mentioning.

I got nothing.

FINALLY: On the lesser of two evils

Someone on OS said noone should complain about having to choose the lesser of two evils, because that is always the case. I couldn't disagree more. Sometimes one gets to choose between the better of two goods. Just because there is a better and a worse doesn't mean either alternative is  "evil," truly "evil" in the ethical and political sense of the term. On the other hand, when that is the case, when either alternative is truly evil, one  should never support one just because it is lesser. One should not support that which is truly evil. If I were experiencing an"enthusiasm gap" of the sort people invoke, I would  be voting. Even were I experiencing a disenchantment gap that did not  extend to a confrontation with evil, I  would be voting. But in my view the torture regime of George Bush and the Republicans was truly evil. I  could never have supported it or them. Obama's continuation  of that regime (including his DOJ's refusal to compensate the proven innocent  who have suffered under it) is likewise truly evil  and I will  not support it. And I certainly will not be supporting an administration that accuses me of being childish for refusing to say amen, or even so be it, to their war crimes.  I do  not lack  enthusiasm for  this administration; I lack  respect for them; I lack any further tolerance for their policies; I lack  any reason to extend them anything but what James Joyce once called "the derision of the desparate."

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If voting were the only way to participate in this democracy, then not voting might signify giving up on participation. However, there are other ways of participating. I hope that you are choosing a different channel but still in the american democracy game.

We need more citizen groups. More advocacy for human rights issues like the ones you mention. More participation.

The idea that voting or not voting is enough has obviously gotten us where we are. I agree with you that it's a bigger problem than what most of us want to admit...our lack of choice when it comes to a broken two party system...
Well stated. I too, actually, have a LOT of enthusiasm. That's why I am going to vote ENTHUSIASTICALLY for whomever is to the left of the Democrats, who have become Dempublicans.

I am going to enthusiastically send my money that way, as well. At very least the Peace and Freedom party and/or the Green party hasn't outright lied to me yet just to get my vote and money, and them ignored me till the next election cycle when they suddenly start telling us how they really will support us THIS time.
nothing will change for the better until americans want change for the better. right now, they just want a better uncle or aunt in the oval office.

what you got is what you get when you vote for people. stop it, it's self destructive. demand democracy, beginning with citizen initiative. many states already have it, and have done better than those states without. not a lot better, we're working with people here, but the dead hand of federal oligarchy is what gets you war, terror, torture and economic convulsions.
I appreciate your distinction between lack of enthusiasm and disenchantment. I find myself confounded as to what to do this election cycle. And, if you can imagine, the picture here in Ohio is even worse at the state level. I can barely muster a positive thought, much less an active vote, for our incumbent Democratic governor, who is running against a former FOX analyst.

Do you give any room to Obama for having to confront a virulent opposition, one that perhaps surprised even the most sophisticated pundits? I have come to understand that bipartisanship was itself a primary goal of his, and of course on that front he has failed miserably. I think he thought--honestly--that he could persuade the right to do some things his way. In that context, compromise makes sense. The problem as I see it is that he caved on everything and still got nothing. There was no benefit to his concessions.

PS I like dolores's point about our democracy having been reduced to voting. It should be so much more than that.