They say in sports that one thing you can't coach is speed.
After last night's results out of Massachusetts, it could be said that one thing you can't control - or measure - in an election is voter anger.
The win by Scott Brown over Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat has sent shock waves over the political landscape, giving import to that phrase we heard that this was indeed "the shot heard around the world" in national political circles. For any candidate, let alone a virtual unknown state senator, to win the seat once held by the lion of the senate and the standard-bearer for Democratic liberalism for four decades, was unheard of just a few weeks ago.
When the campaign for Kennedy's seat began, few figured that Brown, who drove a pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it to his campaign events, had any chance. His opponent had built her own name recognition in state politics, had the backing of the Kennedy family and the Democratic machine, and even got a personal campaign visit from Democrat No. 1 - President Obama himself - just last Sunday.
But the voters of Massachusetts, just like those voting in races for governorship in New Jersey and Virginia last fall, sent a strong message by derailing the Democrats. The voter anger reverberating through Washington today has not been generated by some slick ad campaign supported by a well-oiled political machine. Much of the disgust and distrust of Washington politics is coming out of grass roots America, and from Independent voters. Many elected representatives got a preview of the mounting disgust by their constituents during last summer's town hall meetings.
Obama had strong backing from the Independents on his road to the White House, but now the mood has changed thanks to his massive spending initiatives. It didn't take Obama long to ditch his vow to have a transparent C-Span-type open debate process. That was replaced with some sleazy back-door politicking (and buying) of votes to support his health care plan.
After one year, Obama has given voters plenty to stir up their distrust, from a sour economy and excessive spending to a voluminous health care bill which many perceive was being ramrodded through Congress, only to be force-fed to the public.
The "change" which Obama promised has yet to surface. Many feel recent poll numbers prove the president is out of touch with the public. His fixation over ramming a health care bill through has not helped.
Recent poll numbers show that health care reform ranks fourth in his list of priorities facing the nation - behind jobs, national security and the deficit. Less than half of the people in an NBC poll now approve of the job he's doing and 54 percent feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.
If the Obama and the Democratic congress gets the message that voters in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts have already sent, then it's time to scrap the massive health care plan and retool, and that goes for the rest of this administration's free-spending domestic policies as well.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that regardless of what happened in Massachusetts, "our eye is on the ball of passing legislation." Judging from what Scott Brown was able to pull off in Massachusetts last night, those Democrats who follow Pelosi's lead may just be following the speaker over a cliff to political suicide come the November elections.
By Jim Zbick