Speaking to a crowd of about 26,000 at the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday, President Obama did his best to rile the base. One of the arrows in his rhetorical quiver was a to make the college audience feel trivialized by quoting "they," the pundits in Washington, who are saying that the Democratic base is "apathetic" and that a "bloodletting" is in order because of an "enthusiasm gap."
From Obama on Tuesday:
But that's not quite the case. The "news" that Obama mentions has been filled this week with Democrats saying exactly what Obama is trying to pin on "they" and "Washington."
For example, on Monday Vice President Joe Biden encouraged Democratic donors to “remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives.” When MSNBC later asked if he wanted to retract that statement, he said no, and added, “Those who -- didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better."
But Biden is not alone in his thinking. Even Obama has recently decried a lack of enthusiasm from the base. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine (due out October 1) it was Obama who chided the base: "The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible."
He didn't stop there: "We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard -- that's what I said during the campaign." He even questioned his supporters' dedication, quipping that "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."
"If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up," he added.
Back to the video:
Others, too, have noticed that it's the president and his crew who have been most critical of the Democratic base. New York Times blogger Michael Shear put the whole thing this way:
But there does seem to be a common theme in some of the comments coming out of the West Wing, and it largely has to do with a sense that Democratic voters should toughen up and show some excitement for their president and their party.
In the end, then, Obama may be right: those in "Washington" are saying what he's accusing them of saying -- more specifically, though, the words are coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.