The Democrats may be knocking Republicans for being a party without new ideas, but the DNC’s strategy for exciting its base seems to be about a cult of personality. A message to activists over President Obama’s signature makes that very clear:
I come into this election with clear eyes.
I am proud of all we have achieved together, but I am mindful of all that remains to be done.
I know some out there are frustrated by the pace of our progress. I want you to know I’m frustrated, too.
But with so much riding on the outcome of this election, I need everyone to get in this game.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s six I’s in the first five sentences. And for a base that, much like George W. Bush’s in 2004, might be frustrated by the administration’s inability to deliver the ideologically pure achievements many had envisioned in the days after the 2008 election.
There’s no public option. Democrats themselves are divided on the Bush tax cuts, so a tax hike on the wealthy job creators is unlikely. There is no card check procedure to make it easier to organize unions. The financial reform bill lost a lot of teeth from where it started, and massive sums of money have been spent on corporate welfare. So what’s left to excite a liberal base that has to be excited if the Democrats are to maintain full control of Congress?
The answer is apparently a couple of pages from W’s playbook: 1) Make the election about resolve rather than results (recall Bush’s 2004 message, “You may not always agree with me, but you know where I stand”?) and 2) Remind your ardent supporters that the other side is much, much worse. In 2004 it inspired enough activists to pull a vulnerable incumbent President over the finish line against a poor opposition candidate, so it will likely resonate in some places. Since the hardcore activist in California is different from the hardcore activist in North Carolina or Virginia, it may not help universally, but at this point Democratic strategy is more about stopping losses than making gains.
The real question, though, is whether the 13 million activists on the Organizing for America list that received this email are still excited enough to volunteer their time for Barack Obama again.