Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Matter What

There are a lot of people on the progressive side who understandably feel angry, frustrated, and just plain pissed off by what they’ve seen coming from the Obama administration. I won’t argue with them; there have been some real disappointments and unpleasant moments, up to but not limited to Rahm Emanuel’s outbursts. I know exactly what they’re talking about, and I’m not here to defend them or rattle off the talking points.

But I do think we have to look beyond what we wanted or what we expected and realize two things. First, nobody could live up to the hype that accompanied Barack Obama’s run for the White House. The combination of a dynamic speaker and the revulsion at the failure of the Bush administration made the perfect climate to sweep him into office with the expectations of miracles and deliverance. So no matter what he did, even if he accomplished everything in the first one hundred days and relegated Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Sarah Palin to selling Christmas goodies on HSN, there was bound to be disappointment and unmet expectations. In some ways we set ourselves up for the let-down, and that made the missteps and the screw-ups even more painful and aggravating.

Second, I think we woefully underestimated the visceral hatred that would erupt when it dawned on the right wing that America had actually elected a black man with a centrist/liberal agenda. I remember writing a post back when Barack Obama started his run for the nomination in 2007 that if he got elected, the Republicans and the hard-core wingers would go to heights unimagined to denigrate and slander him and possibly even threaten his life, but I don’t think we really understood the depths of depravity that would come out. Even the worst things that the rudest left-wing bloggers said about George W. Bush amount to gentle chiding compared to what we’re seeing. And it’s not just from the fringes. We have elected members of Congress who are questioning everything from the president’s place of birth to his faith, and we have an entire industry devoted to churning out this crap. (Ironically, it’s probably good for at least one segment of the economy; there’s money to be made in Wingnuttia.)

So now we’re coming up on the mid-term elections. There’s been a lot of talk about the enthusiasm gap; Democrats are demoralized and disappointed, the Republicans are ginned up, and it’s all Barack Obama’s fault. The Democrats aren’t going to vote and the Republicans will vote twice (and suppress voters where they can just for good measure). If that happens, the results will be even worse than what’s going on now because no matter what happens — even if every teabagger candidate out there loses by double digits and the Democrats cling to the House and Senate — the Republicans will claim it as a win and, like George W. Bush did with his “mandate” in 2000, take every pound of manure and sell it as gold. And, true to form, if the Democrats manage to pull it off, they will breathe a huge sigh of relief and not feel as if they deserved to win.

So let me be perfectly blunt: your feelings don’t matter, and failing to vote because of your disappointment will only empower the wingnuts. In fact, they’re counting on it.

Footnote: Of course, Digby says it better.