The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on the Democratic base, lecturing the party faithful in a bid to shame them off the "sidelines" and hold down Republican gains this November.
President Obama and Vice President Biden both used unusually tough language this week to describe their own supporters. In an interview with Rolling Stone released Tuesday, Obama accused many of being apathetic, self-defeating pessimists and implored them to shake off the blues -- fast.
"It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election," he said. "The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining is just irresponsible."
Obama said progressives tend to see the glass "half-empty" and are applying that trademark bitterness toward the health care package because "it didn't have every bell and whistle that we wanted" like a government-run insurance option. But he urged the base to "wake up," recognize the legislation he's signed on everything from health care to financial regulation to student loans and consider the alternative -- Republican leadership that is "to the right" of former President George W. Bush.
"That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating," Obama said.
The interview was released after Biden used similar terms to account for the enthusiasm gap in the party. At a campaign stop for New Hampshire Democratic candidates Monday, he urged Democrats to "stop whining."
In an interview with MSNBC, Biden also traced voter "anger" in the Democratic base to disappointment over the scope of the health care package.
"Because there was no public option, some of them are so angry they say we're not going to participate. They should stop that," he said. "Those who don't get ... everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here."
The bid to fire up the Democratic base, though, could backfire, given the tendency of Obama's advocates to push back when lectured.
"Comments like that are generally not helpful," Levana Layendecker, spokeswoman for Howard Dean's Democracy for America, told FoxNews.com. She noted that "thousands of people" have signed up to participate in an upcoming "national day of action" conference call Oct. 2 and said Democrats are enthusiastic about "those who fought for them."
Liberal blog FireDogLake reported last week on a conference call with White House senior adviser David Axelrod in which one blogger said progressives "feel like we're the girl you take under the bleachers but won't be seen with in the light of day."
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs caused a firestorm when, in an August interview, he criticized "the professional left" and said they "ought to be drug tested." Gibbs later walked back his statement.
But the internal criticism stems from statistics that suggest Republicans, despite their own internal warfare in the primaries, are winning the ground game of drawing voters to the polls.
A new American University report showed 4 million more voters cast their ballots in the GOP primaries than in the Democratic primaries this year. A Rock the Vote poll released this month showed a 9-point enthusiasm gap between young Republicans and young Democrats, with more Republicans saying they're very likely to vote in November.
Obama will kick off a series of rallies aimed at young voters Tuesday with a get-out-the-vote address in the college town of Madison, Wis.
Obama, in his interview with Rolling Stone, echoed Biden.
"We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up," he said.