You know what’s worse than watching House and Senate Democrats botch the tax cut vote? All the emails from folks throwing their hands up in the air and heading for the exits, swearing off voting Democratic or ever again donating money.
I know it’s cathartic to howl at the moon, and in most cases it’s just a heat of the moment reaction. But the “take my marbles and go home” crowd has always struck me as peculiarly both overinvested and underinvested in politics: overinvested in the way a rabid sports fan’s mood rises and falls with the fate of the hometown team; underinvested in that they go from supposedly caring so much it makes their hearts ache to washing their hands of politics entirely.
What I think it speaks to is a lack of control. A helpless feeling washes over people who care passionately about the issues that confront the country but who, because of the demands of work and family, are limited in how involved they can be politically. They have their vote and in some cases they have some disposable income to give to campaigns. But they don’t have much of a voice, certainly not a loud or influential voice. In casting about for some way to exert more control, a take it or leave it mentality starts to seem like a viable option.
I don’t have any silver bullet to offer. Politics is a long hard slog, with frequent reversals. It’s about making the best decision from among the available choices. Often the available choices, as they say in political science circles, suck. The fact that political successes are so rare and fleeting is what makes them so glorious. But you have to gut it out through the lean times. No guts, no glory.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.