NOTE: Thanks for the Rec List! I have to go read with my son, and then get him to bed. Be back in the morning
Presidential elections are won two ways: Getting the base of your party to vote at all, and getting the swing voters to vote for you. The swing voters are 20%. No one has won with much more than 60% of the popular vote, ever (except for Washington, who was unopposed).
So, we have 40-20-40 in this country, with between 50% and 60% showing up to vote.
To win, then, we have three groups of people to convince:
1) The active Democratic base (like us!) We need to show up, and we probably will. We need to work and donate, and many of us will. If we don't we lose.
2) The passive base, who would almost surely vote for Obama if they voted at all. There is no way to know for sure what proportion of the people who don't vote are in this group, but there is evidence that they are more Democratic than Republican, because of demographics: They are more likely to be Hispanic and more likely to be young, and both those groups vote at lower rates than average.
3) The 20% in the middle, who could do anything.
(The Republicans, by the way, look to be pursuing a strategy of keeping their base HOME ...)
For all three of these groups, praising Obama, loudly and often, is key.
Praising Obama gets the base energized.
Praising Obama loudly may convince some of the passive base to come out.
And praising Obama may convince the 20% to vote for him, as well.
Now, no president, certainly not Obama, is perfect. Many of us (including myself) would prefer a more progressive president. But if you sit on your butt waiting for a perfect progressive candidate you will have a fat butt and a bad president.
How can we help Obama be a better president?
First, of course, we can get him re-elected. By a big margin. He certainly won't be a better president if he is a former president. But margin also helps. The two most progressive presidents of the 20th century were FDR and LBJ (and, again, neither of them was perfect either). Both won huge landslides; Obama did not.
Second, we can remember the words of Catherine the Great
I praise loudly, I blame softly
C the G wasn't exactly what I'd want in a president, but she did get things done.
We can also imagine ourselves as teachers. Picture two classrooms:
Classroom 1: Whenever a child makes a mistake, the teacher yells. When a child does something right, he or she gets a good grade, quietly. Maybe the teacher says to them, alone, "nice job"
Classroom 2: Just the reverse.
In which class do the children thrive?
We can imagine ourselves as parents. One great bit of parenting advice is "Catch your kids being good". And Obama often is very good indeed.
If we want a progressive president, praising Obama loudly and publicly is key.