I don’t know what Scott Brown’s religion is. Seven weeks ago, I didn’t know anything at all about Scott Brown. But his amazing victory in yesterday’s special election for the U.S. Senate was about as unlikely as a Protestant being elected Pope. That Fred Grandy line neatly summarizes the political upheaval that has occurred not only in Massachusetts, but in our country.
Going into 2010, President Barack Obama, though battered, still bid fair to be able to ram through his signature health care bill--and achieve the takeover of 1/6 of the U.S. economy. Add health care to his takeover of banking, home mortgages, college loans, major U.S. auto companies, and you would have a sea change in America’s constitutional order.
With Martha Coakley’s defeat, President Obama is now an ex-god. Last year, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said Obama hovered over Normandy and the 65th anniversary celebrations of D-Day “like a sort of god.” No more.
This will actually be good for Barack Obama. From now on, he will have to take account of Americans’ reasonable objections to his agenda. This will force him to pay attention to critics. Under our system, Presidents propose, but Congress disposes. And Congress is going to be emboldened to ask more questions from now on.
President Obama’s record for intervening in statewide political races is now 0 and 3. He campaigned hard for Virginia’s Creigh Deeds last fall. Bob McDonnell crushed him. Obama appeared three times for New Jersey’s Gov. Jon Corzine. Another loser.
And now we have Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley. All three lost badly. In early December, Coakley was 30 points ahead in some polls. That Senate seat was described in the media as “the Kennedy seat.” But poor Patrick Kennedy kept trying to give it to “Marcia” Coakley. That was but one of a hundred gaffes.
Scott Brown caught the public mood when he told the unctious David Gergen: “With all due respect, it’s not ‘the Kennedy seat’ or the Democrats’ seat; it’s the people’s seat.” That one-liner turned the debate and the race around.
House and Senate leaders have been telling worried incumbents they can afford to walk the plank on health care. If their constituents revolt, President Obama himself will come to their districts and campaign for them.