Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Demoralization of Liberals

I listened to an interview with Michael Chabon on NPR a few days ago. Most of it, of course, was about the book, but one segment had political interest. Chabon was a big Obama supporter in 2008, to the point of hosting fundraisers for him.

NPR host Michael Krasny asks him (around the 10:00 mark) whether he's still as enthusiastic about Obama. The answer, pretty obviously, is no, but Chabon doesn't want to say so outright. His careful response is: "All we wanted by working so hard for him was to have the chance to be disappointed by him." I'm not naive enough to think we're supposed to take this literally. If Obama's first acts as President had been to eliminate income taxes, private Social Security, increase the size of the military, and bomb Iran, I don't think Chabon would just say: Oh, well, all we wanted was the chance to be disappointed... and now we are! No. Obviously he means that all politicians disappoint you to some degree or another, and so getting him elected would simply provide the opportunity to be disappointed.

But I find the response revealing in another way: it shows that the person Chabon (and by extension, many other highly motivated liberals) supported was important as a personality, not as a policy figurehead. Obviously Obama's policies were important as well, but the idea of electing the first black President was foremost in their minds. I don't think, for example, that too many people think back on the Carter Presidency with the same wistfulness: no one was just hoping for the chance for him to disappoint them. No, they voted for a set of policies, of which he was their driver. In 1980, Reagan was elected as the driver of a set of opposing policies when Carter's had been shown to be a bust.

If someone as motivated as Chabon can't muster up any more spirited a defense of Obama than that, on as friendly territory as he's ever likely to find (a public radio station based out of San Francisco!), liberals must be quite demoralized this year. That can only redound to the advantage of Mitt Romney. If only he can capitalize on it.

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