In politics I try to remain a pessimist. Because I know all too well about late frosts. To become a "true believer" ends often -- not inevitably, but sometimes -- in disillusion, depression, angry letters that vow never to participate in any political party again, and the ultimate Thelma and Louise barrel-roll into the Grand Canyon: "I'm not even gonna vote this year!" (Bros, I'm looking at you.)
I'm always -- full transparency here -- a true believer, by the way. If I don't believe, how am I going to work 24/7 for somebody's election? If I don't believe somebody's our best hope? I dropped college classes to "come clean for Gene," and became a fired-up field organizer for the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign of 1968. I was given a region of precincts in Salt Lake City to canvass and recruit McCarthy delegates in precinct meetings. I lost every precinct.
That whole election year both enflamed me and just about snuffed me out. McCarthy put an end to LBJ, then lost to Kennedy, who died by assassination, and Nixon squeaks by Humphrey. I didn't stand up again in political activism until the very late-80s. I went all in for the senatorial campaign of Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in 1990. I thought he would beat Jesse Helms, but he lost by six points, and I had to claw my way out of deep depression after that. The 1990s and 2000s often proved a death march for Democrats in North Carolina. We won some and we lost some, but the slide was definitely toward the Right -- North Carolina politics were listing to starboard like the torpedoed Lusitania, and you had to be over-caffeinated to keep organizing through it all.
Things changed on my enthusiasm meter during the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, the local sweep by Democrats in 2006, and the Barack Obama campaign of 2007-08.
Candidates I'm lukewarm about ... don't ask me to bake a cake. Oh, I'll work just as hard, but it'll be for "the ticket," because even when the top name(s) on the ballot don't inspire, a Democrat in office is generally a better thing than a Republican in office. Generally.
True believer? More a skeptic these days, not to mention a fatalist. I expect the worse -- got it big time in 2016 -- but I'm also delighted by Democratic courage when I see it. And I still see it in enough people, in enough candidates to keep me active, even though at my advanced age I don't do door-knocking any more (knees) and have become too deaf for phonebanks. I can write checks. I can howl at the moon. I can sit at a table and scheme.
All of the above by way of cautioning guardedness of belief when you read these opening graphs of a story in today's WashPost ("Republicans grow nervous about losing the Senate amid worries over Trump's handling of the pandemic"):
Republicans are increasingly nervous they could lose control of the Senate this fall as a potent combination of a cratering economy, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and rising enthusiasm among Democratic voters dims their electoral prospects.
In recent weeks, GOP senators have been forced into a difficult political dance as polling shifts in favor of Democrats: touting their own response to the coronavirus outbreak without overtly distancing themselves from a president whose management of the crisis is under intense scrutiny but who still holds significant sway with Republican voters.
“It is a bleak picture right now all across the map, to be honest with you,” said one Republican strategist closely involved in Senate races who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss concerns within the party. “This whole conversation is a referendum on Trump, and that is a bad place for Republicans to be. But it’s also not a forever place.”"Republicans have privately become alarmed" at the polling numbers for some of their Senate incumbents, particularly Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Democrat Cal Cunningham outraised him in the first quarter of 2020 and has come on strong as a young, progressive alternative to the waffling and wobbling study in ineptitude that is Thom Tillis.
I feel my feet moving under me. Damn the isolation and social distance!