I have already indicated why I believe that the sixty vote majority was inevitably temporary. That margin in the Senate simply does not correspond to the balance of forces in the country right now. It was the result of some brilliant campaigning, some cold-eyed compromises in the choice of candidates, and the fallout from the disaster of the Bush years.
Health care reform hangs in the balance. Perhaps the House will pass the Senate bill, which would make it law. I tend to think they will, though that is by no means certain. As I have many times observed on this blog, the messy and distressing compromises written into both the House and Senate versions of the bill were inevitable. Neither the House and Senate leadership nor Obama is in any way to blame for those defects.
But what dismays me is the fact that Obama has, at this point, almost completely lost control of the public discourse, despite the fact that he has been doing an extremely mature, intelligent, creditable job of running the country. I remember the campaign -- it was only a year and a bit more ago. Obama offered Americans an adventure, a movement, an uplifting transformation in American politics. That is why so many people, myself included, worked so hard for his election.
He conducted that campaign brilliant -- no one in several generations has done as well. But since taking office, he has failed to sustain the emotion and commitment of that campaign.
My guess is that the severity of the economic crisis, which was really unprecedented, so absorbed his energies and attention that he was deflected from the role of cheerleader-in-chief. I think he could have sold the necessary compromises to his progressive supporters, had he undertaken to explain to them clearly why those compromises were necessary.
There is simply no way that we should have lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts.
Will Obama learn from this defeat? On the evidence of the campaign, I would say probably yes. But you don't have to be a fly on the wall in the Oval Office to know that the inner circle is busy explaining why the loss isn't their fault. That, I would imagine, is their primary concern at this moment. It ought not to be, of course, but people who make it to that level in politics are always more concerned about justifying themselves than they are about solving problems. If they weren't, they would long ago have been weeded out at the lower levels.
The upside of all of this is that, come what may, Obama is President for three more years, and, if the Republicans continue on their current self-destructive path, seven more years. In a Parliamentary system of government, Obama would be in danger of losing a vote of confidence at this moment. Chalk one up for the Founding Fathers.
On a lighter note, here is a picture of my grandson at his fourth birthday party. Pretty cool!