Opinion » Ted Rall

Liberal Apathy

An overview of the enthusiasm gap


EUGENE, ORE.--Liberal Democrats are twice as likely as conservative Republicans to stay home this November. Establishmentarian liberals are urging left-of-center voters to ignore the president's failure to deliver--and his refusal to try--on the issues they care about.

"The biggest mistake we [Democrats] could make right now," urged President Barack Obama last week, "is to let impatience or frustration lead to apathy and indifference--because that guarantees the other side wins."

"Impatience"? That implies there's something to be impatient about. But liberals don't see a slow process. They see no process.

And what, exactly, is this "other side"? On issue after issue, Obama has cut-and-pasted George W. Bush's Republican policies. Which isn't surprising, given that he didn't appoint a single liberal to his Cabinet.

The real problem for the Dems is a perception gap. The Democratic Party leadership thinks it deserves credit. They think they've accomplished a lot.

Loyal Democrats ask: Why are we still in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why is Guantanamo open? How come the president hasn't come up with a program to replace millions of jobs?

What's the difference between you and the Republicans?

A December 2009 piece by Frank Schaeffer titled "Obama Will Triumph--So Will America" perfectly summarizes the gap.

Obama, wrote Schaeffer, "thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan.

"But that wasn't good enough for his critics," he laments.

The best option in Afghanistan (as in Iraq) was and remains immediate withdrawal. But as we've learned from Bob Woodward's latest inside-the-White-House tome Obama's Wars, getting the hell out was never considered. So no, it's not good enough.

Schaeffer notes that Obama "gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights" and "banned torture of American prisoners." Which is true. Sort of.

But there was no substance behind the rhetoric. He could have signed an executive order abolishing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The torture "ban" exempts the CIA--the main agency responsible for "enhanced interrogation techniques." Even in the four military branches, Matthew Alexander told The New York Times earlier this year, nothing much has changed: "If I were to return to one of the war zones today--as an Air Force officer, I was sent to Iraq to head an interrogation team in 2006--I would still be allowed to abuse prisoners."

Schaeffer also claims that Obama "stopped the free fall of the American economy." Say what? Been to a mall lately?

The thing is, Schaeffer and his fellow Obama apologists believe this stuff. But no one else does.

"We cannot sit this [election] out," Obama said recently. "We can't let this country fall backward because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight."

Dude, you didn't fight with a 59-41 Democratic Senate or a 255-178 Democratic House. You didn't promise much and you didn't even deliver on what you promised.

Fight? Mr. President, you don't know the meaning of the word.