Nearly two years ago, the “audacity of hope” worked for presidential candidate Barack Obama.

But now, it’s time for President Obama and his Democratic operatives to kick the audacity part up a few notches.

That’s because the wave of hope that swept Obama into the Oval Office, the hope that led many black people to vote for the first time and many white voters to vote for a black man, is being flattened by the politics of fear.

Obama barely had time to settle in before the GOP and their wingnut brethren – the tea partiers – began planting doubts in the minds of voters about the black man to whom they had entrusted the nation’s highest office.

They did this not through any honest debate, but by linking Obama’s attempts to govern to Americans’ worse nightmares and stereotypes.

Health care reform? Socialism.

Obama’s plans to address children on the first day of school? Hitlerism.

His inability to plug the ruptured well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico – a disaster that top scientists have been unable to quell? Inattentiveness.

Obama’s failure to fix an economy in 18 months that his white predecessor took eight years to wreck? Incompetence.

It’s all ridiculous, of course. But sadly, some of it seems to be working.

According to a Washington Post – ABC poll, Obama’s approval rating among whites has dropped from around 60 percent since the start of his presidency to just over 40 percent now. Independents are leaning Republican, and GOP voters are more enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections than Democratic voters.

On top of that, strategists say that if white voter turnout returns to its 2006 midterm levels, it could mean devastating losses for the Democrats and Obama’s agenda.

Those numbers tell me that it’s past time for Democrats and Obama to lay on the audacity.

According to the Washington Post, the Democratic National Committee is spending millions to conjure the 2008 model that got Obama elected to get record numbers of blacks and Latinos to turn out to vote in the midterms.

This time, though, Democrats ought to drive home the point to black voters, voters who may not be inspired enough to make a trip to the polls without Obama on the ballot, that they need to vote – and not simply to support the president’s agenda.

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