That was then:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.
The outfit that put upwards of 8 million volunteers on the street in 2008 – known as Organizing for America – is a ghost of its former self. Its staff has shrunk from 6,000 to 300, and its donors are depressed: receipts are a fraction of what they were in 2008. Virtually no one in politics believes it will turn many contests this fall. “There’s no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms,” says Charlie Cook, who tracks congressional races.
…By the time they realized they needed more troops, says longtime consultant Joe Trippi, “their supporters had taken a vacation from politics.”
TIME blames administrative neglect, which of course is always a plausible explanation where Obama is concerned, but of course there are other reasons why the kind of people who changed their middle name to Hussein and collected heroic unicorn art of their Leader have lost the thrill:
Not even sorcery may be able to rekindle the excitement many first-time voters showed back then. “The popularity of the President with these voters is not a transferable asset,” says Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist. “I don’t think it’s realistic that they would ever be able to replicate the unbridled enthusiasm. It’s like a first kiss: you can never experience it twice.”
Ah, the perils of treating politics as a substitute for religion. George W. Bush never had that problem; nobody really came to politics for the first time in 2000 because they thought voting for Bush would make them feel personally fulfilled, would end politics as we have known it, would end the nation’s racial divisions and make the world love us, or that he would pay their mortgage and car payments. Bush got elected because he seemed like a guy who could be trusted to do the job. And of course, that’s before you get to Obama’s actual job performance:
WHY, asks a Democrat leading a training session for fellow activists, doesn’t “Yes we can” work as a slogan any more? “Because we haven’t,” a jaded participant responds.
TIME notes that the Obama team is now trying to rebuild OFA in time for 2012, but that’s cold comfort for Democrats across the country who never did have Obama’s personal glamor.
Election Day is November 2. There will be no unicorns.