The reason both wings of American liberalism -- congressional and mainstream media -- were so surprised at the force of anti-Democratic sentiment is that they'd spent Obama's first year either ignoring or disdaining the clear early signs of resistance: the tea-party movement of the spring and the town-hall meetings of the summer. With characteristic condescension, they contemptuously dismissed the protests as the mere excrescences of a redneck, retrograde, probably racist rabble.
You would think lefties could discern a proletarian vanguard when they see one. Yet they kept denying the reality of the rising opposition to Obama's social democratic agenda when summer turned to fall and Virginia and New Jersey turned Republican in the year's two gubernatorial elections.
The evidence was unmistakable: Independents, who in 2008 had elected Obama, swung massively against the Democrats: dropping 16 points in Virginia, 21 in New Jersey. On Tuesday, it was even worse: Independents, who had gone 2-to-1 Republican in Virginia and New Jersey, now went 3-to-1 Republican in hyper-blue Massachusetts. Nor was this an expression of the more agitated elements who vote in obscure low-turnout elections. The turnout on Tuesday was the highest for any nonpresidential Massachusetts election in 20 years.
Democratic cocooners will tell themselves that Coakley was a terrible candidate who even managed to diss Curt Schilling. True, Brown had Schilling. But Coakley had Obama. When the bloody sock beats the presidential seal -- of a man who had them swooning only a year ago -- something is going on beyond personality.
That something is substance -- political ideas and legislative agendas. Democrats, if they wish, can write off their Massachusetts humiliation to high unemployment, to Coakley or, the current favorite among sophisticates, to generalized anger. That implies an inchoate, unthinking lashing-out at whoever happens to be in power -- even at your liberal betters who are forcing on you an agenda that you can't even see is in your own interest.
Democrats must so rationalize, otherwise they must take democracy seriously, and ask themselves: If the people really don't want it, could they possibly have a point?
"If you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call," said moderate -- and sentient -- Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, "there's no hope of waking up."
I say: Let them sleep.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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