This last year saw massive economic stimulus, contentious health care reform, persistently record levels of unemployment, birth of the anti-government "tea party" movement, and activists who have taken to court Barack Obama's very right to serve as president.
So the fact that this year voters are angry and "want to throw all the bums out" in this year's midterm elections shouldn't come as a terrible shock to the political world.
What is at least somewhat surprising is that that animosity is shared in an almost equal measure on the left side of President Obama's Democratic party as it is among American conservatives.
The liberal blogosphere over time has come to function as something of a ledger that keeps a real-time accounting of the Left's growing dissatisfaction with Obama as president, and with much of the work of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi running Congress.
Using epithets such as "corporatist," "militarist," and worse, a coterie of progressive commentators denounce these Democratic leaders with invective that differs from that used by the Right only in terminology reflective of an opposite point on the political spectrum — but is the same in its disdain.
These progressives have lost faith in Obama over the direction of health care reform, particularly the loss of the government-run public option. They opposed his surge of U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan. They reviled his support for various corporate bailouts. They disagree with his appointment of nominees seen too close to business or the Republican party for their liking. And today they will add a new criticism to the roster, while tomorrow they find another.
Having held onto these resentments, fueled by a powerful sense of being taken for granted, these progressives want to see Obama, Pelosi, and Reid punished for their transgressions. They have to come to see this year's elections as their first, best (perhaps only?) means to achieve retribution.
Voices on the Left — be they Internet commentators, union leaders, or others — have begun to warn these leaders they feel have so betrayed them that they feel so discouraged and dispirited that they very well may just stay home when it comes to Election Day.
The clear implication is that these disaffected progressives will sit on their hands and, if a bunch of Democrats just go down to defeat, well, that's just too darn bad. They'll say Obama and his militaristic, corporatist friends will have no one but themselves to blame.
This protest may offer some brief emotional satisfaction, but otherwise would do more damage to the causes and issues the progressives claim to care about.
My point here is not to defend the array of policy choices Obama and the others have made. I doubt that I would have the bandwidth even available to me to allow me to rebut all of the countless aspersions cast on Obama, and the others — even if I wanted to.
If you don't care for Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, then so be it, I am not going to try to change your mind. (Also, to be clear: I do not work for, nor represent, any candidate, campaign committee, or any political organization.)
I would simply ask you to consider: If, through intentional inaction on the Left, Democrats across the board go down to defeat, just who really would be punished?
It wouldn't be Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi — that much is true. To be sure, depending on their depth, the losses could frustrate, even stymie, their plans for current and future legislation.
But at the end of the day, don't doubt that even if a self-inflicted implosion of Democrats were to lead Obama, Pelosi, and Reid to be ultimately turned out of office at some point, they wouldn't be "punished" in any meaningful way. They still would have their pensions, and all would go on to other jobs, or a comfortable retirement giving speeches, writing books, and the like. They wouldn't be left wanting, or hurt in any way that truly matters.
It's the rest of us that I'm worried about. Democrats that lose this year, by and large, aren't going to be replaced by other, more acceptable Democrats.
No, Democrats losing means Republicans will be winning.
I fully realize that discontented progressives at this point likely will accuse me of buying into, and even advancing, a "lesser evils" argument.
If so, so be it. I plead guilty as charged!
Have you seen the crowd knocking on the doors of government looking to get let in? These are not moderate Republicans looking to get elected. These are hardcore social and economic conservatives.
By looking at the calendar, we've turned to a new decade. But if people elect candidates backed by these "tea party" folks, it will feel like the deepest depths of the Bush administration all over again — if not worse. The 1994 Republican revolution that led to government shutdowns and more will appear to have been entirely middle of the road by comparison.
No one is asking you to like Barack Obama any more. But, my progressive friends, please let reality set in. Sometimes, things really do come down to a lesser of evils.
If you truly believe the nation would be better off with conservative Republicans like Scott Brown of Massachusetts getting elected to write our laws, then please feel free to disagree with me.