Tilting at Windmills

September/October 2012 Don’t forget 2010

By Charles Peters

When I read that there is an “enthusiasm gap” in the 2012 campaign that favors the Republicans by a considerable margin, I thought: If ever there was a time when the Democrats needed enthusiasm, this is it. The Republicans not only have a lot more money to spend on the campaign, but they have been making a massive effort to suppress Democratic votes. I remind readers of 2010, when liberals were devoting most of their attention to criticizing Obama instead of working for a Democratic congressional victory, thereby allowing the Tea Partiers to take over the House and produce one of the worst Congresses of all time.

For me, the most maddening example of what was going wrong with liberalism was the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert “Rally to Restore Sanity.” I’m a fan of both men, devoutly so in Colbert’s case, but they missed a great opportunity that day. They attracted a huge crowd of some of the brightest people around, people who ordinarily would be very active in a crucial political contest. But instead of using their humor to make clear to their audience that the coming election would be crucial, they devoted almost the entire event to showing how clever and above partisanship they were and how awesome their guests were. Only the eighty-four-year-old Tony Bennett urged the crowd to vote. And he just got out that one word, “vote,” over his shoulder as he was being hustled offstage to make room for the next act.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.