The White House Will Scold Democrats Until They’re Sufficiently Excited About Voting

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The relationship between President Obama and a hard-to-please progressive base has been prickly and sensitive for a long time now. The frustration this state of affairs breeds in the White House was most famously expressed by Robert Gibbs in August, when the press secretary mused that those who compared Obama to Bush were probably on drugs and that the "professional left" wouldn't be happy until "we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon." Among Obama supporters, the feeling that palpable, noticeable change has so far failed to materialize was epitomized by Velma Hart, the self-described exhausted town-hall participant who told Obama of his promised change, "I’m waiting, sir, I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet."

The truth is, the disconnect between the White House and Democrats unsatisfied with the administration's successful efforts with health-care reform, financial reform, education reform, Iraq, and preventing a total economic collapse, never really mattered all that much until now, as the election approaches. Because it lacks the sexiness of a presidential contest — and because 19th century Americans who traveled on horseback decided that Tuesday was most convenient time to vote and we've apparently decided to just keep pretending that's still the case — midterm elections have always attracted only the most driven (and retired) voters. This year, what with America in desperate need of rescue from socialism and all, those enthusiastic voters are more likely to be Republicans. While 48 percent of Republican voters say they are "very enthusiastic" about voting this year, only 28 percent of Democrats feel the same way, according to the latest Gallup poll.

The growing realization that Democrats might just not vote on November 2nd is clearly starting to rattle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who have embarked this week on an interesting new motivational strategy. No, not passing legislation that would actually please Democrats (and particularly the so-called "professional left"), like a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans — scolding Democratic voters as if they were spoiled, ungrateful children.

At a fundraiser in New Hampshire yesterday, Biden reminded the "base constituency" to "stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives." And in a Rolling Stone article released today, President Obama is described as walking back into a just-ended interview with Jann Wenner to deliver this message "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger."


One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.

The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.

Now go to your room! And don't come out until you're excited about voting! And I better not hear that PlayStation or you can forget about a repeal of the Bush tax cuts ever!