Hark! The Voters Speak!

By Gail Collins, New York Times - November 5, 2009


Gail Collins

Gail Collins and David Brooks talk between columns.

In Ohio, citizens marched to the polls on Tuesday and voted to allow gambling casinos in the state. This was a obviously a message to President Obama that independent voters are not happy with the way the health care bill is going.

Really, I don’t see how else you can interpret it. Ohioans were looking forward to the lower insurance costs that would come with a robust public option, and if the president can’t deliver, they’re planning to pay their future medical bills with their winnings at the roulette wheel.

Also, people here in Cincinnati rejected a proposal that would have made it harder for the city to expand mass transit. Obviously a repudiation of the entire cash-for-clunkers initiative.

Meanwhile, both Atlanta and Houston voted on mayoral races, and in each city there is now going to be a runoff between a woman and a black guy. You think this is a coincidence? The meaning could not be clearer if the ballots had had a “maybe we should have gone for Hillary” line.

There seems to be a semiconsensus across the land that the myriad decisions voters made around the country this week all added up to a terrible blow to the White House. If that’s the way we’re going to go, I don’t think it’s fair to dump all the blame on gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia.

Although there is no way to deny that New Jersey and Virginia were terrible, horrible, disastrous, cataclysmic blows to Obama’s prestige. No wonder the White House said he was not watching the results come in. How could the man have gotten any sleep after he realized that his lukewarm support of an inept candidate whose most notable claim to fame was experience in hog castration was not enough to ensure a Democratic victory in Virginia?

New Jersey was even worse. The defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine made it clear that the young and minority voters who turned out for Obama will not necessarily show up at the polls in order to re-elect an uncharismatic former Wall Street big shot who failed to deliver on his most important campaign promises while serving as the public face of a state party that specializes in getting indicted.

They would not rally around Corzine even when the president asked them! Really, what good are coattails if they can’t drag an unlovable guy from a deeply corrupt party into a second term?

Also, we have heard a lot about the fact that Corzine’s campaign made sport of his rather chunky opponent, Chris Christie. It was not until Wednesday morning that it became obvious that Christie’s victory was actually an outcry by average, pudgy Americans against a president who has to continuously battle against a tendency to lose weight.

We have a dramatic saga story line brewing here, and I do not want to mess it up by pointing out that Obama’s party won the only two elections that actually had anything to do with the president’s agenda. Those were the special Congressional races in California and upstate New York. But obviously they reflect only a very narrow voter sentiment, since one involved a district that was safe for the Democrats and the other a district that had not been represented by the party since 1872.

On the other hand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s victory clearly fits into the pattern of voter outrage against an unsuccessful White House. Initially, New York City residents found it hard to figure out how to send their message of inchoate rage against all that Barack Obama stands for, since Bloomberg is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but rather a member of the well-known splinter group, Extremely Rich White Persons. Also, Obama had backed his opponent, Bill Thompson, with an endorsement that could not have been more oblique and half-hearted if he had sent it via Candygram.

In the end, everyone got together and decided to re-elect Bloomberg by a margin that was much narrower than expected. I know this is the first time that you are hearing this, but I voted on my way out of town on Tuesday, and I can assure you that everyone in New York intended to convey their unhappiness with the administration’s foreign policy by electing Bloomberg by a margin of five percentage points — exactly the average number of letters in “Iran” and “Israel.”

The voters were directed by a crack team of political operatives disguised as elementary school bake-sale ladies, who spelled out their orders with chocolate chip cookies. The national news media missed this entirely, but insiders could tell that the cookie people were working under cover, since the school system banned genuine pastry sales as part of Bloomberg’s healthier-than-thou initiative.

It all worked out great, and I hope Obama has gotten the message. Really, he had better shape up and completely transform the way Washington works before the next election. Otherwise, another governor’s head could roll.

Read Full Article »

Latest On Twitter

Follow Real Clear Politics

Real Clear Politics Video

More RCP Video Highlights »