Way back during the Bush years, we saw the rise of the netroots premised on the idea that Bush was the worst thing that had ever happened to America. Also boosted by the Bush years was the circulation of liberal magazines. The passion of the opposition was readily apparent to anyone who took the time to read either the liberal blogs or pubs.
That was then, this is now. Suddenly the opposition came to power and instead of spending their days throwing bombs and spit wads, they’ve had to defend what they helped bring about – a seemingly inept and drifting administration focused on the wrong things (they’re having a “health care reform” summit today, instead of talking about jobs) in a time of economic downturn and joblessness.
Vanity Fair has “discovered” that “hate sells”. It sold throughout the Bush years and now it is selling in the Obama years. Liberal magazine circulation is down from their Bush hating highs and conservative magazine circulation is up. I don’t know if it is true, but I’d guess that liberal blogs are suffering a bit of a downturn too. It is much easier to criticize (and I’ll be the first to admit that as I do it daily and find plenty of fodder for such criticism) than to defend. And criticism is usually much more passionate and seems to draw more passionate responses than does a defense.
What has happened to the liberals is they’ve gone from being the opposition – their usual position – to the establishment. They’re not comfortable (or particularly good) with being the establishment. They’re also not comfortable with having to defend their positions as they try to put them into effect via law. What they’re finding is it’s no fun being the establishment, and it is many times hard to summon the passion to defend their actions and ideas when they’re under assault from all sides.
One of the things these circulation numbers tell us as they swing from one side to the other is the measure of the “enthusiasm gap” (that all important gap that usually indicates which party’s GOTV effort will turn out the most voters in any upcoming election). As has been the case depending on which party holds the White House or Congress, there is usually more enthusiasm on the opposition’s side than on the establishment’s side. That seems to be the case now. Welcome to American politics. In fact, it is nothing new and should the GOP capture Congress or Obama be a one-term president, the left will rise again.
In the meantime, they learn what it is like to be on the receiving end of what they dealt for 8 years. But they should also understand that the passion has deserted the left and now resides more on the right (although the Tea Parties indicate a bit of a wild card). And they know full well what that tends to mean in terms of politics and elections. The circulation numbers cited by Vanity Fair are only an indicator of that.