The Corner

The Only Thing We Have . . . Is Fear Itself

Via Jen Rubin, I saw this post by Greg Sargent who can’t seem to hide his dismay that the Democrats are in a bad spot. I particularly liked this bit:

But still, the enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

Jen adds:

Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that this is all the Dems have to work with. And it makes a mockery of the notion that the electorate is voting against Obama’s party out of “fear.” In fact, the fear-mongering Democrats have discovered that even their own base can’t be scared by a grab bag of bogeymen. Maybe the electorate isn’t operating from its lizard brain but with cool calculation: the Obama agenda needs to be stopped.

Now, it is worth noting that Sargent and his ilk argued strenuously that passage of ObamaCare was necessary to prevent just such malaise in the Democratic base. Turns out that all it did was juice up Republicans and infuriate independents. Who knew?

I agree with all that.

But I’d add a few points. First, I’ve never had a problem with using fear in elections, if it’s rational and accurate. But I’m not the one who elevated “playing on our fears” to some sort of cardinal sin. It’s also worth noting that not only have the Democrats been fear-mongering, they’ve also been trying to gin up the troops by decrying Republican fear-mongering. Indeed, the GOP’s alleged attempts to exploit our fears is rapidly becoming the central explanation for both the Democrats’ problems and the GOP’s villainy. Beyond the hypocrisy of fear-mongering while decrying fear-mongering, it’s simply worth emphasizing that the people who claim to believe in “hope” and the candidate who once swore his main rival wasn’t a party or even a carbon-based life form but “cynicism itself” now has nothing positive to offer. All they’ve got is fear itself.

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