The Senate election in Massachusetts may signal much more that dissatisfaction with the current administration; it may signal and end to partisan politics as we have known it.
Given the euphoria and high expectations at Obama’s election in the midst of the worst financial crisis in half a century, it was already difficult not to disappoint. Given the generalities that accompany a campaign and the utter lack of experience he was elected more as an act of faith and hope than for noted qualifications and solutions. Wedding pictures fade.
The first year is often a learning year for a president. Many errors in judgment can be corrected and lead to a successful term and re-election. But this first year has been a year of firsts. The tea party movement should not have been taken lightly. This was a bottom up political movement. Protesters were neither praising or condemning parties; they were condemning their actions.
Independents have been critical to election outcomes in our last 50 years. Independents offer an accountability that party loyalists do not. Unfortunately they also have fewer clear principles that accompany party affiliation. They can be swayed by charisma; they elected Obama. And on January 19, just more than year later, they rejected him.
The rise of the independents may be heralding a new age that renders both political parties irrelevant. The reaction to Ben Nelson’s capitulation on health care from his own state was a note on the change coming. Anti incumbent attitudes are nothing new. But when the opportunity came to turn them out we usually found that unpopular incumbents were always those in other states and districts; we tended to tolerate our own as long as they ‘brought home the bacon’.
Nebraska ended that. They soundingly thrashed Nelson in spite of the lucrative special deal he made for his constituents. This should have alarmed the administration more than Brown’s victory.
Brown’s victory was a vote against the style as well as the substance. When George H. Bush broke his clear pledge (“Read my lips”) and raised taxes he lost the independents and many of his own party. The independents do not like blatant lies and promises broken. Obama promised bipartisanship and tried to force through one of the biggest changes in a decade with no Republican support. He promised transparency yet closed door meetings with no press were common. He promised a five day posting period to review all legislation yet thousand page bills were voted on with little to no time to read them.
He was going to shun special interests yet cut special deals with unions. Did he think nobody would notice?
If a bill has merit, it doesn’t need bribes and closed doors to pass. The more they bribed and gave into special interests the more it was rejected. All the speeches and interviews only made it worse.
The voters have a sense of fairness and truth. They expected more of it and get less. That a party with bigger majorities in both houses than their opponents have had in a century could not get a major bill through signals that either that their bills stink or that they are politically incompetent.