Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Enthusiasm Gap

It has been well-publicized that there is an enthusiasm gap between the Republicans and the Democrats. Republicans are fired up and ready to vote. Democrats are tired. There are various explanations being advanced by the left for their lack of spirit. Many people think that Team Obama simply needs to talk more about their accomplishments. Wile it is true that the have passed some major legislation, I don't think that most of it is the sort of thing that drives people to the polls. Look at what got the Democrats fired up in 2006 and 2008 - Bush.

Back then, the Democrats were united in their hatred of George W. Bush. When Barack Obama promised "Change that you can believe in," the understood this to be code for "undo Bush's foreign policy." How has that worked out so far?

We still have tens of thousands of troops in Iraq with no real end in sight. In the early primaries, Obama promised to have all of the troops out by the end of 2009. He has additional tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. Some of them are supposed to start pulling out next year but this is still an open-ended commitment. As long as we appear to be losing, Obama will have to choose between the support of the Democrats and the rest of the country. Granted, Obama promised to increase troop strength in Afghanistan but many Democrats thought that he was only saying this to get elected and would change his mind as soon as he got in the White House.

Other major complaints include the Patriot Act and Gitmo. Democrats had every reason to expect the Patriot Act to be repealed and Gitmo closed by now. Instead, the Patriot Act was extended and Gitmo's closing in "in the works."

Bush planned to use military tribunals to try the prisoners at Gitmo. Democrats expected Obama to either try them in the US courts or to release them, possibly with an apology (many on the left were convinced that everyone at Gitmo was innocent).

These are the issues that drove the Democratic Party and the Netroots and none of it has turned out as they expected. Most of Obama's foreign policy has been a continuation of Bush's.

There there is Bush himself and his administration. The far left really wanted Bush impeached and members of his administration tried for war crimes. It is too late for impeachment but they still wanted Congressional hearings on war crimes. None have been forthcoming.

Bush hatred is a thing of the past. Obama's chance to electrify his base has passed and, in truth, it would have been bad for the country. Compared to expectations, the Democrats' actual accomplishments have been pretty minor. Yes, they finally passed health care but it was not the bill that the Democratic base wanted and the process revolted most people. The rest of their accomplishments might be notable but let's be honest - people didn't turn out to vote in record numbers because of finance reform. That just doesn't leave much to fire up the base.

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