Martha Coakley’s resounding defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race is hardly the sort of anniversary gift President Barack Obama could have predicted. Yet there it was, wrapped in a bow and plopped on his doorstep like a flaming bag of dog poo to mark the end of his first year in office.
Among other things, Scott Brown’s upset victory means that Obama, who flew up to the Bay State to campaign for the deservedly doomed Coakley in the race’s twilight, is zero for three when it comes to high-profile two-minute drills for beloved causes (remember getting Chicago the Olympics and putting together a global carbon deal at the U.N climate conference in Copenhagen?).
There are at least three basic reasons, plain as the nose on your face, that the Democrats and Obama are in trouble for the near future:
1. Health care reform is not popular. An ABC News/Washington Post poll published on January 19 has 51 percent against current congressional plans and just 44 percent in favor, numbers that haven’t moved in a month. Other polls show even greater percentages oppose the plan, with all the trend lines over the past year working heavily against the Democrats.
People fear the obvious: “Reform” that increases the government’s role in anything virtually guarantees steadily increasing costs, lower levels of services, and ballooning federal deficits. All the special-interest carve-outs to buy votes from wavering senators and pay down objections from Big Labor didn’t help either, especially on an issue that was not boiling over on the front-burner of voter concerns at a time of prolonged economic crisis.
2. The stimulus and TARP bailouts are not popular. They never were, even back when Republicans were pushing them, and are getting less and less so as it becomes clear that such policies are at best ineffective and at worst horribly counterproductive. During his first year in office, reports Congressional Quarterly, Obama got what he wanted from Congress a record-setting 97 percent of time, so it’s not like he’s simply muddling through with a bad hand. Yet the president (and by extension, the Dems) are tanking when it comes to handling the economy, both in terms of results and job approval. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from January 10 shows just 43 percent approving of Obama’s economic policies, down from 56 percent a year ago.
Simply put, nobody believes that weatherizing vacant homes in Detroit or keeping an already bloated public sector on permanent life support is going to restart the economy.