At the end of a blog post about getting rid of the filibuster, Matthew Yglesias answers my item about liberal apathy:
I think that if you want to talk about the counterproductive nature of progressive apathy then you have to talk about this filibuster reform effort. It’s 100 percent true that progressive policy becomes less likely, rather than more likely, if progressives become cynical, apathetic, disillusioned, and blind to the very real achievements of the 111th Congress. But at the same time, there’s an iterative relationship between political leaders and their supporters. Leaders can’t just point to the policy accomplishments of yore and say “stop whining” they need to join with activists in fighting for further change. Appointing Elizabeth Warren would boost morale, and beginning to organize for reform of Senate procedure would as well. If you tell people “we did the best we could, but the structure of the Senate hemmed us in” then people get depressed. If you say “we did the best we could but the structure of the Senate hemmed us in and that’s why I’m fighting to reform the Senate and deliver the reforms we all believe in” then people have something to hang on to.
I largely agree with this. I think liberals have unrealistic expectations of what Democratic leaders can achieve legislatively and that the resulting disappointment will serve to discourage, rather than encourage, future activity. But Democratic leaders do have to lead where they can, whether it's by organizing efforts to down the institutional obstacles to change (like the filibuster) or making the most out of the power they do have (making appointments, issuing regulations, etc.). Elizabeth Warren would seem like a perfect place to start.