They called it a "miracle." Maybe it wasn't the Spirit of 1776, but something like it was in the air as Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate seat held by Edward M. Kennedy for six decades. Running on resetting health-care reform in Washington, tax cuts and fiscal responsibility, Brown did what was considered utterly impossible: he flipped a long-held Democratic seat in Massachusetts. But one of the messages the Brown victory sent was that there are no safe seats. There is no inevitability in politics. Even the memory of Teddy Kennedy, a liberal icon, with all the weight of his family's romance, and his widow on the campaign trail, couldn't get this election away from issues.
It was a powerful, inspiring statement. From around the country that special-election day in Massachusetts, I received e-mails from Americans who felt a newfound connection to what happens in Washington, who, in some cases, even wondered, for the first time in their lives, whether they should run for political office.
But there was an entirely different spirit emanating from the teleprompter during President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address. Obama seemed determined to squash the Brown fervor like a bug. Without using the senator-elect's name, the president dismissed growing frustrations with himself, his party and its policies -- the indisputable sources of Brown's victory -- as a "campaign fever," a sort of sickness that impedes reasonable government.
Characteristically, the president swatted his critics like pests. He chided them as if they had no plans of their own to offer -- especially on health care. But it's not that they have no plans: it's that Obama has no interest in the views of opponents, seeing them merely as annoying obstacles to be overcome in the face of his grand agenda.
This is the wrong attitude. These are the wrong lessons.
Obama also functions as the worst kind of leader of his party -- one who is willing to let it fall on its sword, rather than compromise. The president's bullheaded attachment to his misguided policies will take its toll in the voting booth. In New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, the White House has lost dramatically. And the outlook for this November doesn't get better for Dems.
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