Those folks in Massachusetts have a way of starting revolutions, and they're still at it. The Spirit of '76 seemed to morph into a new Spirit of '10 Tuesday night as an obscure state senator up there prepared to become a U.S. one. And, at least for 24 hours, the very emblem of American independence.
What was supposed to be slam-dunk for the ruling party in the bluest of blue states turned out to be just a dunk. As for the other party, the grand old one whose funeral was being held only a few months ago, it was showing signs not only if life but of what John F. Kennedy used to call vig-ah.
The grand old party looked new again as a good-lookin' boy full of pizzazz and vinegar stepped forward to upset the best laid plans of the most entrenched Democratic machine in the country -- well, east of Chicago, anyway. Hey, what a surprising country.
The moral of this story: Never take the American voter for granted, especially if you've just tried to ram a grandiose "reform" down his throat with a little help from backroom deals and closed meetings. We the People are liable to rear up like a horse that's not about to be ridden that way.
The unlikely winner in Massachusetts has more than politics in common with voters out here on the frontier. For one thing, he drives a truck with a couple of hundred thousand miles on it. For this election wasn't about just one issue, even one as big and upsetting as health care. It was about the attitude of a party very much in power, and confident it could run over any signs of opposition from the mere people. Americans don't take to that kind of thing very well. They haven't since at least 1773 and the first Boston tea party.
If the election results Tuesday don't set the Democrats straight, well, nothing may. As the winner put it election night, if the Democrats are in trouble in Massachusetts of all places, they're in trouble everywhere in America. As much as Nancy Pelosi, speaker and suddenly shaky boss of the House, might pretend otherwise. From East to West Coast, and certainly in the middle, the natives grow restless. Already have grown restless. Not just in Virginia. Not just in New Jersey. But now in Massachusetts, where folks aren't just revolutionaries but have made a tradition of it. That cradle of liberty is still rocking away.