Friday, September 30, 2011

Marked Lack Of Enthusiasm Among Democrats

When the Democratic Party voters and workers are enthused about an election they usually win that election. In the 2008 election about 80% of Democrats were very enthusiastic about the election and the party won big at the polls that year (of course, it didn't hurt that the nation was suffering after eight years of Bush/Cheney). In the 2010 election, disappointed by the failure of elected Democrats to stand up to the Republicans and initiate real change, Democratic enthusiasm dropped to around 60% (below that of Republicans) and the election was a disaster for the party.

This begs the question, are the Democrats getting enthused about the 2012 election? Will it be a repeat of 2008 or 2010? The Gallup Poll has tried to answer that question with a new survey where they attempt to take the pulse of current Democratic enthusiasm. Gallup's survey, taken between September 15th and 18th, questioned 1,004 adults nationwide with a margin of error of 4 points (including 454 Democrats, where the margin of error was 6 points). And what they found should worry the president and the Democratic National Committee. It should worry them a lot.

The poll shows that less than half of the Democrats, about 45%, are more enthusiastic than normal about the upcoming elections in 2012. About 44% say they are less enthusiastic than normal. That is a marked drop in enthusiasm even from the 2010 elections, and it is larger than can be accounted for by the margin of error. Meanwhile, the Republican enthusiasm remains at a steady 58%. The president and the congressional Democrats have an "enthusiasm gap" problem, and it is time they started acting to close that gap.

How can they do that? Well, it won't be done with rallies or speeches full of promises. They heard all of that in 2008 when they delivered a huge victory to the party. But the time since then has been filled with little but disappointment. The elected Democrats have just not delivered on the change they promised. Some of you are going to point out that much of that change was blocked by Republican obstructionist tactics (and blue dog timidity). And that is true.

But it is not so much the failure, as the way it happened. There can be honor in fighting the good fight, even when you lose that fight. But there is no honor in giving up and knuckling under. And far too often in the last few years, Democrats have seen their elected officials act as if they have no backbone. Too many of them gave up and gave in instead of going down fighting. And when you lay down a history of that kind of action, as many Democratic officials have done, it makes it very hard for voters to get enthused about your re-election.

This is especially true of the progressives who form the biggest part of the Democratic Party's base. After seeing issue after issue that they supported go down the tubes with little fight from the White House and congressional Democrats, they have become disenchanted. Most progressives know they are not going to get everything they want -- that is just how politics operates. But they do want to see their elected officials fight for those issues. If they are not willing to fight to the end for those progressive issues, why should they expect progressives to fight to get them re-elected?

The president and congressional Democrats have been taking progressives for granted for quite a while now. They figure the progressives have no other place to go and will wind up voting for Democrats in 2012, whether they want to or not. And they are probably right about that. Most progressives will vote in 2012, and most of them will vote for Democrats (even if they have to hold their noses to do so). But if that's all they do, then the Democrats will lose.

The issue is not whether Democrats will vote, but whether they will spend countless hours working for the party and it's candidates. Unenthused party members do not harass their families, friends, and neighbors to get them to the polls. Unenthused members do not give countless rides to the polls on election day. Unenthused people do not spend the weeks leading up to the election knocking on doors and making phone calls. Unenthused people don't open their wallets to support candidates. And unless a whole lot of people do these things the party cannot win.

There is still time to light the fire of enthusiasm in Democrats, but it's going to take guts and a fighting spirit from the elected Democrats. The president has proposed a good jobs bill and a fairly good deficit reduction package. They are worth fighting for. The Republicans will most likely kill both measures in the House and put pressure of Democrats to agree to some kind of Republican package instead. The Democrats must fight for what they want, and if it is blocked by the Republicans then that fight must be taken all the way to the next election. Giving in again is simply not going to be acceptable.

People will vote for fighters, and more important, people will fight to re-elect fighters. It's up to elected Democrats now. Do they have any fight in them, or not?  

1 comment:

  1. If it's any consolation, we Republicans aren't very enthusiastic either (at least this one isn't!).


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