In case you haven’t heard, there’s an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans heading into the midterm elections. As Jon Stewart recently quipped, “Salivating Republicans are already camping out in front of the polls like they’re waiting for the next Harry Potter book, while Democrats remain at home, watching tapes of Obama’s 2004 “Red-and-Blue America” speech, weeping.”
Who among President Obama’s 2008 supporters doesn’t feel like weeping these days? Sky-high expectations inevitably crash. Vexing inherited problems like unemployment, foreclosures, and Afghanistan continue. Obstructionist Republicans and the right-wing media have effectively manipulated an anxious and angry populace. And President Obama’s own policy and political missteps have demoralized his liberal base. As Barney Frank points out, “Things Would Have Sucked Worse” is hardly a winning campaign slogan for firing up enthusiastic support.
Enthusiasm is nice. But it’s not everything, or even necessary. If we depended on enthusiasm to get out of bed every morning, go to work, and floss at night, a lot of us would lose our jobs and our teeth. But we get up anyway and do the right thing. Usually, in the course of the day, the impulse to stay in bed with the covers drawn up over our heads gives way to feeling better because we’ve taken care of things that need tending.
Right now, the promise that started two years ago needs tending. We don’t need to be enthusiastic. We just need to stop weeping, get out from under the covers, and vote.