The amazing thing about democracy is that no matter which side of the political aisle you may sit on, you’re going to be subject to the whims and wishes of the electorate. Sometimes they’re going to see things your way, and sometimes, they’re not. It’s a lesson as old as the concept itself, and one that must be taught over and over. Today, members of the Democratic Party are the unwilling students.
Tomorrow morning, Democrats will awake to the uncomfortable reality that the newly elected junior senator from Massachusetts, the man replacing the revered liberal Ted Kennedy, is a Republican. They already have their spin doctors working the news shows, trying to convince themselves that this isn’t one more repudiation of the Obama administration and rather just a statistical blip caused by a weak candidate who blew an election. Meanwhile, the Republicans are doing giddy “toldya so” cartwheels and thinking it means that maybe – just maybe – the public is willing to forgive them for trying to foist them with Sarah Palin.
But what does it really mean?
Barack Obama strikes me as a sincere, well-intentioned person who is doing all he can to execute the platform he outlined during his successful campaign for president. And, to be honest, I don’t disagree with much of what he’s trying to do. But anytime you hit the ground running and never slow down, you can miss the scenery – and when that scenery changes, you can be the last to know.
We all know the President inherited a mess, and he did a decent job addressing the recession upon taking office. You can argue about the scope of his plans, but there’s no disputing the number of projects in work or the people employed by them – you can’t turn a corner in SoCal without running into some public works project with its “Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” sign. But once he turned his attention to health care, without slowing to first take the temperature of the populace, things went south in a hurry.
There’s a reason health care reform has been a concern for so long, and it’s not because Congress is lazy – it’s hard! There are a lot of details, and options, and opinions, and it’s been very difficult to achieve a consensus. Thus, every new Congress butts its head against it until bloodied then moves on to other issues. But this Congress – and the President sending the orders – had something different … a super majority, and they weren’t afraid to use it.
You know that old saying about how power – and particularly absolute power – corrupts? Well, Americans on the right – and, increasingly, the center – saw how Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi rubbed their hands together in glee at what they could do with their filibuster-proof majority and began to worry. At their core, most citizens don’t trust politicians, particularly if the checks-and-balances built into the system are overridden. Once it became clear that the Democrats were going to shove health care through no matter what the opposition thought – and with little concern for the opinions of said opposition – a red flag was raised. One-time fringe groups like the Tea Party movement suddenly gained traction, and an increasingly large number of voters wanted to put on the brakes. At the same time, the speed at which the Democrats were moving prevented them from seeing the size of the wave that was about to break over their heads until it was too late to do anything about it.
To be sure, the campaign of Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General who was the Democratic candidate for the senate seat, is as much to blame for the loss as anything. She stumbled badly and often, and did everything she could to lose the election. But in a state with as long a history of sending Democrats to Washington, this is a stunning blow.
The message has been sent to the President and his party – slow down. Think things through. Consider all the opinions, even those of the opposition. Now we’ll see if anyone is listening.