David Michael Green has written a fantastic piece over at Common Dreams today; "Bucking Up For Barry." It's a compact, harsh little polemic that, with a few words, makes for a solid corrective to the stream of garbage that's recently been publicly pouring forth from several administration figures with regard to the alleged irrationality of liberal discontent with the Obama and the Democrats.
Having, from the beginning, almost entirely locked out the liberals and having then run the whole of his administration in a manner that, a few short years ago, would have been uncontroversially characterized as conservative Republican, the Obama is shocked--SHOCKED--to discover that, with congressional elections looming, the liberals are uninterested in turning up to vote for his party.
Vice President Joe Biden identifies the discontented liberal base as those who "didn't get everything they wanted" out of the administration, and this characterization--that liberal critics are just whiney ideological purists who can't have everything their way--has become popular among administration apologists. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the liberals will only "be satisfied when we have Canadian health-care and we've eliminated the Pentagon."
To write this off as mere caricature would be to falsely suggest there was any nugget of truth in it at all (a necessary element for an effective caricature). To state the obvious, the disaffected liberals aren't made up of fanatical ideologues who refuse to get with the program because they only got 90% or 95% or some other high figure of less than 100% of what they wanted. It isn't that, with a Democratic president and Democratic supermajorities in both houses, they only got 50% of what they wanted, either. The reason liberals are becoming alienated from this administration and are increasingly uninterested in voting for the Democrats this year is because they've gotten practically nothing from this administration or the huge Democratic majorities in congress.
Well, that "nothing" isn't exactly true. It is true they got nothing when it came to constructing the administration, and it's true they got nothing when it came to this administrations' policies, from health care (where Obama adopted Republican Mitt Romney's corporate welfare bill as his "reform") to the stimulus (pathetically small, and a thing for which Republicans took credit), to financial reform (more of the same).
The liberals did get something from this administration, though.
They got its contempt.
On every major issue, the Obama not only gives in to the Republicans without a fight; he has usually adopted their policies as his own. He won't fight with the Republicans over anything, but he's more than happy to pick a fight with the Democratic die-hards who make up his base of support. The open contempt they've been getting lately from the likes of Gibbs and Biden mirrors the contempt they've been getting all along.
Those of the larger left in the U.S. are in constant disagreement with one another. They've never had the Republicans' reflex of mindlessly lockstepping the goosestep, but the potentially good news for the Democrats--and bad news for the U.S.--is that most of the liberals have shown themselves to be gluttons for punishment. Usually, one need only raise the specter of how much worse it would undeniably be should the other side regain power (particularly true this year, given the current proto-fascist Repub party), and far too many of the liberals are content to shout "thank you sir, may I have another?" A willingness to stupidly tough it out for no discernible gain, however, doesn't necessarily translate into a willingness to show up at the polls in any significant number, which is what the Democrats now need. This year, even what many consider the strongest (and what is, in fact, the most shopworn) of Democratic arguments for holding one's nose and voting Democratic--imagine what the courts will look like if the Repubs win--can't hold any water after the Sotomayor and Kagan atrocities.
The other reason the Democrats should have some hope is, of course, the Republicans, who, in an election year tailor-made for a strong showing by their party, seem far too often determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In state after state, they've chosen to reject winning candidates and nominate, instead, a seemingly endless string of unelectable flakes, fruit-cakes, and fascist idiots whose every pronouncement alienates everyone who isn't completely insane or a complete imbecile.
It's also a fact that Republican strength this year has, in all the Conventional Wisdom with which we're forever besieged in the era of the 24-hour cable news network, been grossly overstated. The teabaggers may make lots of noise and suck up an absurdly disproportionate amount of press coverage and commentary as a consequence of all that very Big Money behind them, but there isn't even a hint of any sort of groundswell of public support for the policies or candidates they're pimping. Even the more "mainstream" parties' "Pledge to America"--an attempt to retread the 1994 Contract on America--went public with a thud, and, only days later, already seems to have been forgotten. A rainy election day in November would benefit Republicans more than all the teabaggers and Pledges combined.
The most basic thing that is to their benefit is the simple fact that they're the major opposition party. In a two-party state (one that usually more closely resembles a one-party state), the Repubs are, by default, considered the only credible option for expressing frustration at the polls. And people are very dissatisfied with the Democrats this year.
The current crop of Republicans in power would be a horror-show, no doubt, but, as Green points out, the current Democrats in power have also been one. "None of the Above" seems a principled stand to take this year. The same can't be said for voting for either of the major parties.