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Massachusetts, Obama and the Young Victoria

Queen Victoria had just gotten married, and the crowd outside her palace couldn’t have been happier. But the cheering, as captured in the movie “The Young Victoria,” puzzled at least one observer who couldn’t help noting that it wasn’t that long ago that the same crowds were demanding the queen’s head. “Love her, hate her, love her, hate her,” Sir John Conroy mutters in a scene that is a timeless commentary on politics and how fickle the public can be.

I feel a befuddlement similar to Sir John’s as I watch President Obama’s approval ratings drop (from 62 percent when he took office to the current 50 percent). Or when I listen to pundits from all corners of the political spectrum weigh in on how he’s blown it. What happened to all that good feeling just a year ago? Likewise, how could it be that Democrats -- who swept the country with political victories in 2008 -- are fighting for their lives to win a Senate seat in a state with a long and rich tradition of Democratic ideals?

Of course, there have been some missteps. Obama may have overreached in trying to do too much at once, the congressional Democratic leadership can be off-putting, and Massachusetts Democrats surely were too complacent. Nonetheless, that doesn’t explain the near-schizophrenic response of the public in turning against people and principles it had once (and recently) embraced. It is, for example, inconceivable to me that voters who sent a man to the Senate for 47 years so he could pursue health reform would now want to jeopardize that man’s life work.

Nowhere is this more puzzling than when it comes to Obama. The president has pretty much stuck to the course he outlined in his election campaign and, as The Post’s Fred Hiatt concluded, has done a fairly good job in his inaugural year. Which makes me think that part of our country’s problem has just as much to do with us and our collective impatience as with the people we choose as our leaders. We expect instant and easy solutions. And when we don't get them the impulse is likely to be what Queen Victoria’s mother pointed out to Sir John -- to punish. Too bad we sometimes end up hurting ourselves.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | January 19, 2010; 3:18 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Next: Bipartisan mourning for Robert B. Parker


"It is, for example, inconceivable to me that voters who sent a man to the Senate for 47 years so he could pursue heath reform would now want to jeopardize that man’s life work." That was Ted Kennedy's life work not the people of Massachusetts.

Posted by: bb1969 | January 19, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I concluded long ago that US voters deserve what they get. The average voter has become dumbed down to the point that he/she makes decisions based on the latest commercial, not well reasoned objectives. The fact is, most voters are not capable of making reasoned decisions because they don't know the first thing about history or how the US government functions.

It is a sad end to a grand experiment.

Posted by: boomer5 | January 19, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Casting a protest vote in this case, to "send a message" (God, how I'm beginning to hate that phrase) is incredibly selfish and short-sighted. Stop bleating about "checks and balances", too, will you? For one thing, Scott Brown would be all check and no balance - Hello!! He's a Republican! Maybe he sucked you in with all that "Independent" blather, but he's a straight-party-line-voting Republican. And what do you need checks and balances for? The Democrats already can't get anything done: would you like to put some checks on that?

One-man-one-vote democracies are perhaps the worst choice when voters are too stupid to forecast the results of their selfish impulses, or too lazy to do a little what-if modeling. The country is already on the edge of becoming the world's biggest banana republic without your help.

Posted by: marknesop | January 19, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Jo-Ann, why are you so befuddled by this revolt against Obamunism? Do you TRULY only read the Wash. Post and watch CNN? Protecting their "principles" is EXACTLY why the good people of Massachusetts are turning against this liberal insanity.

Posted by: Greenwaver | January 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"Nonetheless, that doesn’t explain the near-schizophrenic response of the public in turning against people and principles it had once (and recently) embraced."

I have to believe that the Washington Post folks and maybe DC people in general are so bubbled that they actually think the American people care about rhetoric over reality. I know in Washington all that matters is the principles one espouses, but for most people, it's not what you say- it's what you do. And obama has done nothing of what he's said.

- Heath care reform: Now can't even be termed 'insurance reform' since corporations can keep bleeding everyone. The only good thing about it is that they have to accept pre-existing conditions... but that's okay, they can just hike prices up so high that they can continue making record profits. Oh, and remember when Obama was in the debates arguing for no public mandate and yes to a public option? Riiiight. Principles.

- Close gitmo. Un-huh.

- Have more transparency. C-span the senate and house debates on health care. How'd that work out?

Maybe when the Washington Post figures out that voters don't only care about speeches, it can start to gain the sort of journalistic integrity that Jon Stewart has.

Posted by: privacy3 | January 19, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I can only agree with you completely, as with the author, who says:
"We expect instant and easy solutions."
The news media are reporting voting is light in Massachusetts in minority districts.
Down here, we experience the same thing.
During the "off" years (non-presidential election years) and special elections, minorities just don't make the effort.
They don't know enough about how government functions to understand that President Obama cannot effect change alone.
He deserves our support.
Instead the voters who show up seem to be electing a proponent of torture and a man who despises the American experience.
He's a corporate clown.
Chris Matthews reports Brown brags that he will vote to "kill health care."
What a blow to the legacy Ted Kennedy worked so hard to achieve.
Oh well.
When, in 5 to 6 years, they whine that they can't afford the health care package their company negotiated, or they lose all benefits when they lose their jobs, they'll be furious that the government hasn't done something.
They can't complain.
They voted for this dunce.
Earlier in the day, some parents of Lynn University students who went to Haiti to do some "Christian" proselytizing and who got caught in the Hotel Montana, are hammering the Obama administration, demanding the troops go into that area, take their own lives in their hands and rescue these families' (probably deceased) kids.
Hey, they sit up in their comfortable houses whining, when they were the ones who allowed their children to go to Haiti.
They took the risk.
Natalie Holloway should have been warning enough, but apparently they thought God would protect their kids, while the rest of Haiti collapsed around their ears.
And now, these parents think it's somebody else's responsibility to dig their kids out or die trying.
The ignorant stupidity of some Americans, and their illusionary sense of self-importance, astound me.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | January 19, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"What happened to all the good feeling?" What happened to it is what always happens to good feelings when the public discovers they have been conned. Candidate Obama smiled a lot and spoke with such emotion about a new America that he would invent that the voters were completely beguiled. Obama hid his extreme leftwing beliefs and did it well. The press did no investigative reporting about his "progressive" background and so are co-conspirators with the Democrat Party for helping it foist this extreme leftist on the US, the most leftist of all our presidents. He took a bad situation and made it worse and US debt went from billions to trillions. Despite that he and his congressional gang fashioned a "health care" bill that the people did not want and which will sink the US even farther into debt. There is no need to feel "befuddled." Simply open your eyes.

Posted by: mhr614 | January 19, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Consistent with he meaninglessness of political polls is the NBC News/WSJ poll reported tonight, in which a small majority of those polled think the country is headed in the wrong direction and oppose Obama's initiatives. Yet, 75% admire him personally. The polls shed little light; almost as little as most comments to the Washington Post. All we can say for sure is that most people have strong opinions but weak facts. Hence all the name-calling and resorting to labels and epitaphs.

Posted by: wilsonjmichael | January 19, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

This is all about Obama not his children or his wife.
Obama is president. He has two lovely children. He has an intelligent wife and he was elected. HIs accomplishments were nil and they still are. He has broken his word to the American People too many times. He and Pelosi and Reid have embarked on the corruption of Senators and House members using bribery and extortion to get a horrific bill forced down the unwilling throats of a large majority of the country. This alone makes him unfit to be President.

Posted by: mharwick | January 19, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I share your confusion, Jo-Ann. But unlike Jim Demint (supported by the talking heads of the so-called "liberal" media), I do not believe that this will be President Obama's Waterloo. This train has left the station: the American people will have national health care. Eventually, we will even have single-payer and as with Social Security, the current naysayers will come to consider it their right. And it is.

Posted by: gsross | January 19, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Ah the poor dumb fickle voters! The same voters who stuck it out with uncle Teddy for 47 years and now suddenly are fickle?

Here's one answer: we bore the BS from DC for eight long years. We voted for change. What we got the past year has been business as usual. Wall Street cronies are still in charge. Just different names. Back room deals for lobbyists from every corners and for disgruntled senators too. Vast sums of bonus for the wreckers of our economy. A deficit bursting stimulus that did not stimulate.

In short more BS.

Here's the message: No more BS from DC whether Democrat or Republican BS!

Posted by: barrylarryandtimmy | January 19, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

By the way one election result (Virginia) was a fluke. Two election results (Virginia and New Jersey) were mere coincidences. There election results (Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) constitute a national trend.

No it's no longer local if Brown wins. It's national. It's a reflection on the guys in Washington.

Posted by: barrylarryandtimmy | January 19, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Even though the democratic candidate ran a poor campaign, I think there was much voter backlash exhibited in this race. It was a rebuke of the steamroller approach of the democrats not only with health care reform but in their “we know better attitude”, especially reflected by Pelosi and Reid. Further, Obama’s glitter has definitely worn off and voters are realizing the democrats may be reaching too far with their social agenda. Too many Americans are hurting, scared of the economic uncertainty and outraged at the double standard our politicians have shown in bailing out the fat cats and giving lip service to those being kicked out of their homes or losing their jobs. The democrats better get the message and fast.

Posted by: sero1 | January 19, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't remember voting for backroom deals, Cornhusker kickbacks, Louisiana Purchases, Labor Loopholes, Union hush money, Cash for Cloture, and bribes with taxpayer money. The misspending of the stimulus and the lies about unemployment and jobs created/saved is pathetic.

I suspect many dems will hear the voters tonight. If it can happen in liberal Massachusetts with "Teddy's Seat", than it will be magnified 100 times across the land in November.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 19, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

It is simple. The democrats misread the voter's disgust with Republican mismanagement as support for far reaching progressive reform. Unfortunately, between gerrymandered districts ans the primary and caucus systems, the large plurality of us in the middle are left with alternatively voting out the Dems. and Republicans until one party or the other wakes up and governs the country instead of appealing to its extreme base.

Posted by: mikes2 | January 19, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

The voters may be "fickle". But the problem is amoral politicians who do anything to get elected. Obama is selling the Americans hot-air.

Posted by: SteveR1 | January 19, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

"The Post’s Fred Hiatt concluded, has done a fairly good job in his inaugural year. "

Yes, but when you read Fred's editorial, his "good job" consisted of "hiring good people". He can't actually point to anything Obama has done.

It read to most as a fairly nonobjective view of Obama's first year.

To the rest of Obama, he was a guy who said he would govern from the middle, then did his best to push an agenda that basically had nothing to do with how he campaigned.

Plus the whole "I gave away $1T to my corporate buddies, and I promise to give a lot more away to insurance companies" gives people pause.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 19, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Apparently those ignorant voters, (products of government education), were unaware of the impact of having their healthcare nationalized until some of these proposals and the associated costs started rising. No need to worry though. These silly provincial elections will not stop the enlightened central committee from doing what's best for the ignorant proles.

Posted by: carajillo | January 19, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

"During the "off" years (non-presidential election years) and special elections, minorities just don't make the effort."

They asked for their Obama check and weren't going to show up unless it was promised...

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 19, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Calm down everyone and keep in mind that the Republican victory occurred only because the people of Massachusetts turned out to vote in such large numbers.

Posted by: thinking2 | January 20, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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