Friday, September 10, 2010

Democrats and the Alleged “Enthusiasm Gap”

It’s sometimes amusing to watch the way a catchy phrase becomes a story and, through repetition, the story becomes established fact in the public mind. One such story lately has been the supposed “enthusiasm gap” pollsters think they see between Democrats and Republicans leading up the fall elections.

What is “enthusiasm”? Emotional engagement? Overt expression of emotion? Hysteria? If you see a madman raving on the street about an imminent Second Coming, I guess you could fairly say there was an “enthusiasm gap” between him and the calm, rational people passing him by on the sidewalk.

From the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 to 2008, I was among the many who watched in dismay while the party in power systematically dismantled much that was good about the American system of government and much that had been accomplished previously.

In terms of economics, debt rose astronomically and, unchecked and unregulated, banks and credit card companies started engaging in a number of shady and lucrative practices that brought the world economy to its knees in 2008. Good, effective regulatory agencies like FEMA, the EPA, and the FDA were gutted, defunded, and disempowered; then “government” in general was blamed for its lack of effectiveness in every national crisis, from food contamination to Katrina. America launched a pointless war in Iraq that destroyed countless lives and failed (spectacularly) to make the nation safer. Torture became American policy, and by the end of it all, America was despised the world over for its arrogance, aggression, and lack of responsibility toward the world and its environment.

How do people feel after a long, debilitating illness? After a tragic accident in which lives and limbs were lost? After the tragedy is over, and the rebuilding has begun, there may be relief, hope, and determination. However, these feelings do not amount to “enthusiasm”—not with so much work yet to be done.

And, in the case of America today, not with a good proportion of the country’s so-called leaders standing around with their arms crossed, refusing to pick up a shovel, determined to prevent any progress from being made unless they can be the ones calling the shots. (Yes, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, I’m talking about you.)

Given all this, it might be fair to say that Democrats like me aren’t feeling “enthusiasm.” And sure, many of us are disappointed that we as a nation haven’t been able to accomplish more in the past two years. Most of us would have liked to see a stronger health reform bill. We might wish we were further along the road to a clean, responsible energy policy, or that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” were history by now. But we know how much has been accomplished so far, and we also know who-all is responsible for the lack of progress. (Hint: It’s not the president, nor is it most of the Democrats in Congress.)

So we Democrats won’t go marching off to the polls, shouting and waving American flags. Unlike many Fox News fans, we’re not perpetually pissed off—just quietly disappointed that people who want to do the right things for America have to work so darn hard to get them done.

We may not cast our votes with enthusiasm, but we’ll vote, and we’ll vote responsibly for sane, rational, forward-looking candidates who will work hard for America, regardless of who’s in charge.

1 comment: said...

I don't think it should be called an "enthusiasm" gap -- it's more of an "anger" or "outrage" gap. Have you ever noticed that it is only when people become outraged or angry that they become more politically engaged?

That's when it happened for me. I was pretty even keel - though I always voted - until the Bush Administration started messing with the rule of law and basic civil liberties that I got involved.

And, if you think about it, how bad did it get in the Colonies before they started throwing tea in the Bay?