Political enthusiasts ever so tiresome

A new phrase has entered our consciousness in the run-up to the midterm election -- the "enthusiasm gap." This is the phenomenon said to favor Republicans who are highly fired up, in contrast to the Democrats who are feeling like wilted lettuce.

A new phrase has entered our consciousness in the run-up to the midterm election -- the "enthusiasm gap." This is the phenomenon said to favor Republicans who are highly fired up, in contrast to the Democrats who are feeling like wilted lettuce.

But this is no way to decide an election. Let me say this about enthusiasm: Ho hum! Yawn! The very thought of enthusiasm makes me tired. I refuse to vote for any politician with enthusiasm. It is like being enthusiastic because my clown has big blue shoes and your clown has a big red nose. Surely we can all agree that this is no basis for enthusiasm.

In my own life, I try not to be too enthusiastic about anything. I want to be able to go to the Indifference Ball and have other guests whisper: "Say, who is that unenthusiastic-looking guy over there? Is he asleep or is he just resting?" Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is a good look for a squirrel, not for a mature observer of human foibles.

Instead, I like to have a joke and take it easy. Of course, I have my political preferences, but boundaries on enthusiasm must always be observed.

Still, it must be admitted that the enthusiasm of cheerleaders is a pleasing sight, for the good reason that they are as cute as buttons.


Political cheerleaders, however, are about as cute as warthogs.

Like warthogs, political partisans of the conservative stripe are forever in a bad mood. While warthogs have an excuse -- the warts hinder their dating opportunities -- those worked up about politics today have largely invented excuses to become so enthusiastically irritable and chronically humorless.

It may be that the agitated ones in this election cycle have only just woken up, which can make anyone grumpy. For example, they hate bailouts, but as they apparently were asleep until 2009, they think President Barack Obama -- not George W. Bush -- started them. The same is true of deficits.

It is true that the economy has not improved much and the deficit has grown exponentially -- and all this is bad. Still, it is an odd thing that those who are well-off seem to be the most enthusiastic complainers.

This makes a certain sense. It is easy to be against extending unemployment benefits, for example, when you are employed, and against universal heath care when you have your own coverage.

The enthusiasm gap has made me realize I could never be a conservative. As I understand it, being a conservative means being always mad about something -- enthusiastically angry, to be precise, except when asleep. As it is, sleep is only allowed to the partisans when the GOP is in power doing all the things that would otherwise make conservatives mad if Democrats did them.

Last Saturday, thousands of progressive and civil rights groups marched near the Lincoln Memorial in a great show of Democratic support.

As The Associated Press reported it, the rally tapped into anger, just as the tea party movement has done. I hope not. It is the anger that I find so repellent. The story also reported that Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show" on MSNBC, "borrowed some of conservative commentator Glenn Beck's rhetoric and vowed to 'take back our country.' " Nothing should be borrowed from Glenn Beck -- really, let's have some self-respect around here. Moreover, the country does not need to be taken back because nobody took it anywhere -- except in the fevered dreams of certain angry people.


Don't tell me people are angry because they love their country. Liberals love their country, too, perhaps more so, because they don't want it to be a place that has the enthusiasm for being perpetually angry. For me, the whole point of being a liberal is to be rational, sane and even-tempered, which is why talk radio isn't a liberal strength.

So, ho hum, yawn -- don't talk to me about the enthusiasm gap.

It doesn't take enthusiasm to go to the polls and vote against the crazy and angry candidates. This is called patriotic duty. This is called recognition that, if reasonable people stay home, the bitterly enthusiastic folks may have the chance to rejoice and say "Get over it!" (like they never did themselves).

And if that happens, some of us will have to get mad -- and we do not want to get mad, because anger is a distraction and a canker on the soul.

To all sane and mild-mannered voters, I say to you with no enthusiasm: You need to put starch in your wilted lettuce. Once more unto the enthusiasm breach, dear friends, once more.

Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail him at .

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