The Enthusiasm Gap or He’s Just a President

obama clearDisillusionment implies at some point you were illusioned. You believed something that turned out not to be true.

I watched a documentary where young people in the early ‘90s thought their music was “alternative,” and then they were disillusioned when grunge became mainstream. “It’s like…what can you believe in anymore, man.”

The point is: disillusionment means you’ve had a fall from grace…but it was mostly your fault for believing a falsehood in the first place.

Case in point: the lag in support for President Barack Obama. I’m not talking about those who could see a John McCain presidency from their house and think serious people could describe anyone or anything as “Kenyan Nazi.” I’m talking about the hordes of folks who believed in hope, empathy and America’s turning a corner. The ones who in November 2008, turned out en masse to give the Senator from Illinois a landslide victory.

Some Americans voted for an ambiguous “change” and now see some imprecise things are “the same.” These Americans are now suffering from what beltway people call the “enthusiasm gap,” and what everyone else calls being disillusioned with Obama.

“He’s just not lived up to my expectations.”

This all started with the Purple Ticket holders at the Inauguration. Obama supporters and volunteers were given either purple or blue tickets to watch the ceremony just behind the honored and seated guests in the silver section. The Purple Ticket holders were (you guessed it) on the left of the Capitol, and security was tight for this unprecedented event. Over two million people packed into the mall that day to see the new president sworn in. If they were Republicans it would have been counted as 20 million. Regardless of what ticket you had everyone stood in the frigid air for several hours waiting to get in, but there was a snafu at the Purple gate. Some with Purple Tickets were stuck in the Third Street Tunnel unable to get to the Capitol. It was estimated 5000 Purple Ticket holders (if they were Republicans it would have been 50,000) didn’t get to witness the ceremony at all.

During the following week on blogs and Twitter Purple Ticket holders kvetched about their plights. “Obama, you owe us!” The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein, even floated the idea of giving souvenir packets to pouting Purple Ticket holders.

So the “everything didn’t go perfectly and now the president owes us” theme was born. Because Obama is just that good of an orator, he created the illusion that he really is your buddy. Not something you’d ever accuse Bush of being, something Bill Clinton had to a certain degree. “Obama’s cool, he’ll fix this Purple Ticket mess.” As if the moment after Obama took his semi-botched oath, every tiny annoyance should be eradicated for those who voted for him, or they would be – unhappy. Disillusioned.

Obama is just a president. A leader of a (still) rich and (still kind of) powerful country. Politics is tedious, grinding, petty and – unless you’re completely twisted beyond all reason (like myself) – kind of boring. Presidents don’t cure all ills and make everyone get along – no one does that. Ever.

The fact is: Obama is a good president. He’s a centrist who is somewhere between what mouth-foamers on either extreme say about him. He does listen to all viewpoints, which makes people of some viewpoints – ironically – dislike him. He’s not the villain the insane Right says he is, nor is he the do-nothing turncoat the insane Left says he is.

Pulitzer-winning fact-check site has diligently kept track of what this president has done and not done. By their count Obama has currently kept 121 promises. He’s compromised on 39 and broken 22. Currently, 81 are stalled, and 240 are in the works. According to their calculations he’s kept way over five times more promises than he’s broken.

We aren’t on track to go back to the Moon by 2020, but he did fully fund the Veteran’s Administration as promised. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell wasn’t repealed two years ago, but the deficit is down 8% from last year. There’s still a 9.6% unemployment rate, but the economy is creating (as opposed to losing) private sector jobs.

Most importantly, America voted for and got a president – not a mythological character.

Tina Dupuy

Reposted with permission.


  1. MC says

    For an article on a website with the word “progressive” in it, this is a very liberal view. The point of people whom you call the “insane left” is that he’s accomplished little to no actual change. However, you make a great observation about disillusionment. There was little to no precedent to imply that Obama was going to be the ultra-progressive president that the “insane lefters” voted for.

  2. schrodinger's feret says

    Whether or not Obama is a good or bad President depends on one thing and one thing only:


    So far, the results are not good.

  3. marie says

    I am glad to read this supportive article.
    By keeping on loudly criticizing our president and the present DM-majority government, we feed the disillusionment of our young idealistic voters. If we could more accentuate the positive accomplishments, so they could feel that their vote was a important positive influence, saving us for worse, they would more likely vote again.
    Highlight the negative consequences that would have been if the conservatives would have their way. Picture how things would have been with Mc Cain instead of Obama.
    Highlight how the Republican party has boycott any possible positive change for the common-people.
    When talking with High-school and College students I hear so much of this discouragement in Obama and the Democrat Party. No surprise when they are constantly are exposed to our dissatisfaction.

  4. says

    Dupuy writes in summary: “The point is: disillusionment means you’ve had a fall from grace…but it was mostly your fault for believing a falsehood in the first place.”

    This facile general claim is usually RUBBISH. It certainly is rubbish in the case of many of us who are ‘disillusioned’ by the inadequacy of the Obama presidency.

    Typically, a reasonable person’s present ‘disillusionment’ does NOT arise from her belief (past or present) in a falsehood. Rather, it arises from her past reasonable hopes for the present being dashed by behaviors which there was no good reason to expect.

    Many of us ‘disillusioned’ ones were never ‘illusioned’ in the first place by all those vague glittering hints of ‘change’ featured in the Obama campaign. Rather, we are disillusioned because the Obama presidency doesn’t measure up even to average standards and clear examples set by Dem presidencies from FDR forward – both in policies and in approaches.

    Dem presidents typically have promoted economic and environmental progress and human rights at home, and defense of freedom and human-rights-friendly friends abroad. Dem presidents typically have been activists, marshalling popular support via the bully pulpit, and losing no time in making key appointments and in sending credible nominations to fill vacant judgeships. In all these basic respects, the Obama presidency doesn’t measure up.

    • Dustin Ewan says

      -sigh- … you didn’t click the link did you? In fact, you didn’t read the whole article either did you?

      Try again, please.

  5. says

    I think Obama is the best we have seen in 60+ years, and really the best we can hope for in the lifetimes of anyone now living. Given our current poisonous political environment, he has very very little room for maneuver in what he can say or do. He must prioritize his problems, in particular. Of course he is not perfect, we cannot demand that of him. Anyway, he cannot do it all himself, ultimately it is up to us.

    I believe we are faced with a real danger of a neo-fascist devolution, rather like Germany in 1925 say, and I believe that would most probably to lead to WWIII, and global catastrophe. We had a judicial coup d’etat (in my opinion) in 2000, and similar dangers for the future are easy to imagine (though hard to evaluate realistically).

    Time and time again this democracy has squeaked through by the skin of its teeth: many in the Civil War, a few in the Great Depression, again and again in WWII, and then in the Cold War (remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?!) So I am not ready to give up hope yet. But a run of good luck never lasts forever, and nations do not live forever. Democracy is, after all, “the worst of all political systems (except for all the others)”, and I am ready to believe it after what we have lived through.

    Bottom line for me is, we need to give it “blood [mostly metaphorical, I hope], sweat, toil, and tears NOW, while there is still some realistic hope.


  1. The Enthusiasm Gap or He’s Just a President | The LA Progressive…

    Obama is a good president. He’s a centrist who is somewhere between what mouth-foamers on either extreme say about him. He does listen to all viewpoints….

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