The single greatest takeaway for me from the 2008 election cycle was the sustained enthusiasm the Obama campaign’s supporters maintained. The campaign rolled on for over 20 months and during the highs and lows thousands of people young and old came out to see and hear Obama. The McCain campaign was also able to generate enthusiasm, however this development did not occur in a comparable way until after the Republican Convention. The lingering question remains if Obama can sustain this enthusiasm once he actually starts governing.
Congress is well known for its ability to deliberate and discuss legislation until it is dead and all enthusiasm – with the exception of frustration at Congress – has waned. However, as we saw with the recent bailout, Congress can act quickly. The promises of the Obama campaign to deliver change to Washington, whether it be in the form of healthcare, energy reform or government regulation, hinge upon the cooperation of Congress. Ostensibly he will have the support of a Democratic Congress, but the Senate will not have 60 Democrats. In the face of a fillibuster, any youthful enthusiasm can evaporate overnight. Obama has a narrow window to maintain his electoral enthusiasm and transform it into an enthusiasm for government and the legislative process.
If Obama can transfer the enthusiasm he utilized on the campaign trail to his tenure in the White House, he has the chance to succeed with his policy goals. No politician wants to face a mobilized electorate that is upset over policy failures and backed by the campaign machinery Obama was able to employ. However, as with politics in general, only time will tell if this youthful enthusiasm can be maintained.