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Hullabaloo


Friday, September 04, 2009

 
Keep Hope Alive

by digby

I understand why many in Congress and the White House believe that it doesn't matter if liberals get disillusioned and disappointed: they assume we have nowhere else to go. And I get that they believe (erroneously) that it's always a positive to punch a hippie --- Cokie says the Real Americans want them to. But there is a problem for Democrats ahead if they continue down this path.

Politics requires appeals to emotion. It just does. There are very few people who sit down and read the campaign platforms of the candidates and the parties, set up a spread sheet and analyze the issues pro and con. And frankly, they don't need to. Humans have highly developed systems to evaluate other humans based on a whole lot of sophisticated, subliminal criteria. A good politician's appeal is partly based upon policy, to be sure, but largely people vote for them on tribal identification and personal attraction.

It's complicated but when you boil it down, in American politics, you have two political tribes --- the fear and resentment tribe and the inspiration and progress tribe. I think it's obvious which are which --- it's no accident that the last two Democratic presidents both ran with "hope" as their slogans. People respond to the parties based largely on their own temperament and sense of belonging in that particular tribe. (I had a relative who told me that she didn't really think too much about politics, she just felt that if she voted for a Democrat it would feel like she was a cat having her fur brushed backwards.)

Obama brought out a huge number of people, particularly idealistic young people and African Americans, because of idealism. Although we political junkies were all impressed with his "cool" and his brains, that wasn't the main thing most people found attractive about him. What they saw was that he was the inspirational, living proof of progress and it was a powerful symbol and message.

All successful presidents find ways to keep their own tribe happy while appropriating enough of the other sides' heuristic identifiers to appeal to a few who would normally go with other tribe. But they have to make sure that their own followers maintain their identification with them as well. So Democrats have to keep hope alive. Obama is flirting with failure on that count and I think it's dangerous. His success, and the party's future, depends upon maintaining an enthusiastic base of young and idealistic people long enough for their attraction to Obama to gel into long term political commitment. Because Democrats depend upon inspiration and optimism, it's imperative that they deliver progress. Cynicism, anger and fear either demobilize the base or send some of them to a third party or even the other side. It's a danger that Democrats don't seem ever see and I don't understand why, especially after what happened in 2000. We've seen that it can be fatal.

Hopefully, Obama will understand this before he does real damage to his coalition and loses the support of the most promising members of the Democratic Party. The PCCC is sending him the message that he needs to pay attention to this now:

Many progressives have expressed frustration with President Obama's refusal to commit to a government-run health insurance plan. If the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has their way, the president will soon hear from them directly.

The PCCC is fundraising to put out an ad featuring former Obama campaign workers, volunteers, voters, donors and staffers telling the president to insist on a public option in health care reform.

The group is circulating a petition among Obama supporters who are disappointed by recent news out of the White House.

Here's the email from the PCCC:
We didn't plan to email you again today. But yesterday, news broke that President Obama will make a big speech to Congress next Wednesday on health care -- an issue we know you care about.

And according to news reports, "although House leaders have said their members will demand the inclusion of a public insurance option, Obama has no plans to insist on it himself." *

In response, we got a truly depressing email from Christian S. in Texas:

"Your recent health care ads are great, they hit home. But Obama has decided to drop the public option and for breaking his campaign promise I am dropping out of political activism for the time being."

This fight is absolutely not over, but Christian's feelings are real. If Obama doesn't stand firm on the public option, millions of people will lose hope.

So today, we're launching a petition to President Obama signed by those who volunteered, staffed, voted for, or donated to Obama's campaign in 2008, asking him to please stand firm on the public option.

If that's you, can you sign this petition today? Click here.

Then, please think hard about others you know who worked for change last year -- and forward them this email.

The petition says: "We worked so hard for real change. President Obama, please demand a strong public health insurance option in your speech to Congress. Letting the insurance companies win would not be change we can believe in."

We'll make sure the White House gets our message. In addition to delivering the signatures and personal notes from the petition page, we're planning an ad featuring the voices of those who sign.

Obama's speech "is still being debated in the West Wing." * That means there's still time -- we have one week to persuade Obama to do the right thing.

Can you sign this petition to President Obama today? Click here.

Then, please forward this to others. Again, we have until Wednesday, September 9. Thanks for being a bold progressive.

Change



* links fixed
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