Smiles were few, but there were plenty of scowls Tuesday night on the usually smug faces of MSNBC's fervently liberal show hosts. Chris Matthews hasn't looked this unhappy since his one-time boss, Tip O'Neill, passed from this mortal coil. Nora O'Donnell, network reporter and Obama enthusiast, was unable to muster even a trace of a grin throughout the evening, as it became clear that the late polling in Massachusetts' special election was accurate and that upstart Republican state senator Scott Brown was going to beat Democrat Martha Coakley and take the U.S. Senate seat held by a Kennedy for almost all of the last 58 years.
The habitually ill-tempered Keith Olbermann was more splenetic than ever, excoriating Mr. Brown as "an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex nude model, tea bagging, supporter of violence against women, and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States."
Well, Keith, it seems the joke is on you. Mr. Matthews himself put it best when he said, "If they [Republicans] can beat them [Democrats] here, they can beat them anywhere." There is no sugarcoating the bitterness Democrats from the president on down taste with this loss of their super majority in the Senate. Many of them admit that Obamacare is not likely to be passed and that some kind of Plan B must be found and followed. The irony is inescapable; the very forces that brought Barack Obama to the presidency and swept the feckless Republicans from congressional pertinence have been turned on those who seized power because of them. Mr. Obama ran on a platform promising hope and change, but a huge slice of the voting public feels betrayed by what has happened in the first year of this man's rule. If Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, can elect a Republican to what used to be called "The Kennedy Seat," then there are few safe harbors for incumbent officeholders anywhere in the nation.
When asked whether his victory represented a referendum on Barack Obama, Scott Brown said, "It's bigger than that. ÃÂ For us in our area, we have three [state House] speakers that were indicted, three [state] senators that have resigned in disgrace, we have out-of-control taxation, spending in Massachusetts," Mr. Brown said. "You couple that with what's being proposed nationally, people are angry."
Well, perhaps not as angry as Keith Olbermann, who may be the most permanently outraged person not in custodial care, but angry enough to send an unmistakable message to Washington, one that echoes the rant by crazed anchorman Howard Beale in the satirically prophetic 1976 movie "Network": Mr. Beale exhorted his viewers to throw open their windows and scream as loudly as they can: "I am as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" The American voter in effect did that in electing Mr. Obama and tossing the Republicans out of power, but the Democrats misread those election results as being a mandate for enacting every liberal nostrum they ever dreamed about into law. They must now reevaluate, and they have to do it quickly or face severe consequences come November.
President Obama was quick to call Mr. Brown when the result became certain, offering his help on issues dealing with the Bay State. The decisive margin of victory means there can be no plausible delay in seating the new senator. As a result, as some people have noted, the Republicans will now enjoy a 41-59 majority in the Senate. In other words, they can now successfully filibuster health care reform and other legislation with which they disagree.
This is a victory for gridlock, something desired by a whole lot of people tired of being fleeced and bamboozled when either party enjoys total power. The election results in New Jersey and Virginia last year were shots across the bow of the good ship Obama. This week's upset was more than that. How much more we'll discover as this election year rolls not so merrily onward.
Ron Smith's column appears Fridays. His e-mail is email@example.com.