Ben and I talk about the "enthusiasm gap" among Democratic voters in our Scripps Howard column this week. My take:
You almost can't blame President Obama for being frustrated. He's gotten more big things done -- a health care bill, the stimulus, financial reform -- than any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson, and he's done it in only two years. So why all the complaining from his liberal base? Because it hasn't been enough. And what has been done hasn't been done well.
Yes, the longtime progressive dream of a universal health care bill passed -- but in a messy form that, with its mandate on American citizens to buy their own health insurance or face penalties, seems designed to alienate as many voters as it serves. The stimulus probably averted a Depression-like disaster for the American economy, but liberals believe it probably needed to be bigger in order to lower a still-horrendous unemployment rate. Financial reform took too long to pass and was watered down by the very institutions that must be regulated.
That doesn't even include the president's actions in the War on Terror, where his moves have been barely distinguishable from President Bush. Sure Obama ordered an end to torture. But Gitmo is still open, there are still troops fighting in Iraq and the Afghanistan War appears to be a deepening quagmire. Civil libertarians and gay rights advocates, meanwhile, also have a long list of reasons to be frustrated with the president.
Is all this letting the perfect be the enemy of the good? Maybe.
Certainly, it is difficult to believe many liberals would be happier if John McCain had been president the last two years. But President Obama and his surrogates don't generate enthusiasm when they criticize and mock their most fervent supporters. It's time they stopped complaining and started persuading their liberal critics -- and the rest of the nation -- that the actions they've taken are the right ones.