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The Enthusiasm Gap Mystery

I haven’t said much about the 2014 election. And I’ve said nothing about 2016. I won’t say anything about 2016 until people actually start announcing they’re really running because literally nothing that I can say at this point would be anything other than wild speculation.

I haven’t said much about 2014 for a couple of reasons. First, we’re not really going to get an accurate picture of exactly how it’s going to turn out until September. Most people aren’t paying attention at this point of the year since there’s too much grilling and beaching to be done. And secondly, because it’s not going to produce shocking results. Democrats are definitely not going to do well. I strongly suspect that control of the senate is going to hinge on Kentucky. If Alison Lundergan Grimes can wrestle that seat away from Mitch McConnell, the senate will remain in democratic hands. But I digress.

My point in this post isn’t to look at all of the races across the country. I want to talk about the enthusiasm gap everything is incorrectly analyzing. Democrats have an enthusiasm gap problem. That part is true enough. It’s always true in midterms. But everybody seems to be missing the reason for the lack of enthusiasm on the part of democrats.

It boils down to the inherent difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives are inherently blindly loyal and less critical in their thinking. They’re republicans, and they will always show up to vote for the republican. It doesn’t matter who that republican is, and if that candidate has ever done anything for them. That’s not a dig, that’s a fact that has been demonstrated in study after study. I’ve been asking this question for several years now;

Tell me something that republicans have done in the past 30 years that has benefited you personally.

I have literally gotten no answer to that question since I started posing it. Even the trolls go quiet for that post. And yet they vote, oh how they vote. 

Liberals are different. Some (significant) percentage of liberals do assess the democrat put before them. They don’t just show up and check off whichever name appears in the democratic column. And if they deem their democratic choice "unworthy", they just don’t show up at all. Liberals don’t show up to vote against someone in midterms, while republicans show up to vote against someone or something in every election. For about the last 20 years, republicans have been conditioned to believe that voting is an exercise of opposing something. They lost their platform when Poppy Bush lost his shot at a second term. Against is literally all conservatives are for anymore. And since we know that conservatives thoughtlessly do what they’re told by their party to do, they faithfully show up and enthusiastically vote "anti" every single time they get the chance to. 

Liberals generally like to be for things and for people. And liberals have held onto ideas they’re for; access to education for all, fair wages for everyone, equality for all, providing for the most vulnerable among us, and equality of opportunity. When those things are on the ballot, liberals show up in great numbers. The midterm enthusiasm problem that democrats have, is that they’re increasingly not for those things anymore. Since they’re demonstrably not for those things, they’re having a harder and harder time getting a party message together. A Rahm Emanuel type candidate running for congress in DesMoines is not going to inspire liberals to show up and vote. A Bill de Blasio or an Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand will manage to beat the odds and win by a landslide. Why? Because they’re for the things that liberals are for, and that democrats used to be for. Both Warren and de Blasio managed to raise more money than their opponents who were well funded by corporate interests. They did so, despite being perceived as the long shot underdogs. So people gave them money believing they had almost no chance of winning. That’s enthusiasm.

There was nothing wrong with de Blasio’s better known democratic opponents. They were fine in the grand scheme of democrats. But de Blasio ran as a flaming fucking liberal. He ran on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for free pre-k education for all New Yorkers. He ran on a platform of ending the racial profiling that the NYPD had been practicing for twenty years. He wants to get rid of the horses in Central Park. For the love of God, is there anything more granola crunching than saving the horses? And you know what? He beat his ‘just fine’ democratic opponents by a big enough margin to avoid a runoff election. And then he went on to just embarrass the republican candidate by kicking his ass to the tune of a 50 point spread.

I started volunteering for his campaign when he was polling in fourth place. And you know what? I knew that he was going to become the next mayor of New York City. I started donating generously to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, when she had no chance of winning because I knew she was going to win.      

The problem democrats have is that they’re trapped between their liberal base and Citizen’s United. You can’t win an election in America unless you have the biggest pile of cash. In 94% of all congressional elections, the candidate with the most money wins. Think about that; ninety-four percent. Democrats can’t be for the people without getting money from the corporations. And that’s why they have been putting forward uninspiring, corporatist ‘lite’ candidates in the midterms.

Republicans walked away from every single tenet of conservatism, and that didn’t matter. Small government? Peh, Reagan and W grew government in ways we had never seen before. Fiscal responsibility? Who fucking cares cause "deficits don’t matter". Not intervening in the world’s problems unless we have to? The Bush doctrine effectively crapped all over that idea. And yet, they still show up. With nothing to show for themselves, they still show up. With no coherent platform, they still show up.

There would be no enthusiasm gap if democrats ran liberal candidates. Why? Because liberals are still passionate about traditionally democratic principles. Democrats need a platform. Liberals are not inspired by the "anti" doctrine. We’re not automatons, and we have principles we hold more dear than we do our party. And therein lies the enthusiasm gap.

Read me now, quote me later; this strategy of "stop the impeachment efforts against President Obama" that democrats have cooked up isn’t going to work. We need something to vote for, not something to vote against.         

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