It feels good to win. We deserve to gloat, and more importantly, we deserve to be optimistic about the future. Optimism is a feeling that doesn't come easy to those of us on the left. But at the risk of spoiling the party, I want to suggest that after nearly a week of enjoying the taste of victory, it's time to allow a little bit of healthy fear creep back in.
Look, I remember this feeling. I remember feeling good after the 2006 elections and even better after the 2008 elections. Honestly, I was complacent. And if some of what I read at the time was true, some of you were complacent too.
In our defense, when it came to getting out the vote, President Obama didn't lead between the 2008 elections and the 2010 midterms (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). He didn't ask us to contact our representatives or write letters to the editor or donate a few bucks and recruit other donors or make telephone calls or any of the things that he inspired us to do in 2008. I was led in 2008, and I was hoping that Obama's team would continue to lead me after the election. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Yes, I cast my ballot in the midterms, but so many who showed up to vote for President Obama and Democrats in 2008 stayed home in 2010. That's always the case during midterms, but many on the left who stayed home during that election only needed to asked.
There were other factors too. Despite all of President Obama's accomplishments (if you doubt the measure of such accomplishments, then let me know, and we'll start a separate discussion), we were frustrated about what we didn't get (but should have). Why did Congressional Democrats put up with that super-majority bullshit? If only the Senate majority had changed the filibuster rules in '08 after experiencing Republican obstruction tactics during the previous Congress. If only Congress had immediately passed a larger stimulus plus health care reform with a public option using reconciliation.
More recently, why did President Obama even negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling? Why didn't he just call them out for what they were: extortionists? Why did Democratic leaders allow the media to get away with the notion that President Obama and Democrats didn't reach across the aisle? For God's sake, private health insurance mandates, cap-and-trade, tax cuts to stimulate the economy, infrastructure spending, and the Dream Act were Republican ideas.
Demoralizing? Yes, it was. But it doesn't have to be that way again. Not if we think long-term. Despite our best efforts, there's a good chance that President Obama will disappoint us again. God knows what we'll finally end up with if and when a Grand Bargain of some sort is struck. If he does disappoint us, are we going to sit at home between now and 2014 while Republicans seek to solidify their hold on the House and try to regain the majority in the Senate? Or do we seek to send more progressives to Washington who will work to prevent more damage in the future while seeking to restore any damage done from such a bargain?
We need to let elected officials from both parties know that the left leads from the bottom up. Let's send them the message that we don't stop when an election is over. We still donate. We still write letters. We still sign petitions. We still make calls. We still join together. And most importantly, we still get out the vote. We'll be there for the 2014 midterms, the election after that, and the election after that.
We have the majority. Let's make sure that the majority stays involved, organized, and enthusiastic about voting in every election.