(UPDATE after the jump)
Exactly one year into Obama's mandate, the Democrats are losing Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat, which they had held for 57 years. Just as Obama's election was the most improbable thing to happen, so is this huge upset by Scott Brown.
Yesterday's debacle in Massachusetts, most observers agree, was wholly preventable for the Democrats. A combination of ineptitude, overconfidence and complacency from the state party, combined with the perceived ineffectiveness in Washington and the resurgence of culture wars, made it possible for the Republican underdog to campaign as the change candidate and win against a totally uninspiring Democratic opponent, notwithstanding her 30-point lead in some polls just weeks before the election (!!!).
But this also speaks of America's confusion and very volatile emotions these days.
Scott Brown seems a decent man. But he lives in the same mental bubble that America has been closing itself in for most of the past decade, and from which it briefly seemed to emerge in November 2008 by electing Obama. Brown's positions are riddled with much of the dogma and inconsistencies that brought the country to where it was at the end of Bush Jr administration - a failed economic model, an abusive police state, an aggressively warrior nation and increasingly an international pariah. The same attitude of disregard for the facts and for consequences.
And on torture, he firmly sides with the New Barbarians: waterboarding is not torture (so yes, "Waterboarding Wins"), nor are torture the "enhanced interrogation techniques".
It looks though like they may have killed some (probably innocent) people, but you know the saying: when the facts contradict the theory, stick with the theory and too bad for the facts.
The mood in the country has been souring towards Obama and the Democrats for months, but yesterday's result may mark a tipping point. The impact is huge, and immediate. By losing this seat, Democrats lose their filibuster-proof super-majority of 60-40, which spells big trouble for Obama's flagship initiative on healthcare reform. It seemed a done deal, but now it may incredibly slip away. Some Democratic legislators are getting overtly defeatist over the issue.
Democrats still control both Houses, but they will have wasted a full year with a super-majority without managing to wrap-up any major initiative, a chance that may well not present itself again for decades. And come November, they may well lose even their simple majorities in the mid-term elections.
One thing that is playing out now - and in the immediately following period - is the fate of Obama's presidency. More precisely, whether he still takes a shot at being a transformative president, or settles for being just a decent but unremarkable office holder. In other words - his place in history. Obama will anyway be remembered as the first black president; but one doesn't need a four-year mandate for this.
And ultimately it's about America, which seems closer and closer to relapsing into the paranoia and denial that lately had come to offer a deceptive mental comfort zone, while the real world out there was falling into pieces.
It almost looks like this great nation needs psychotherapy en masse.
UPDATE: Pretty much the same point, made more eloquently by Andrew Sullivan:
[Obama] must not just rally the House Dems, he must rally the country. He must bring us back in. And we must back him up. This is not just about a centrist comprehensive health reform bill. It is about defeating an entire brand of cowardly, cynical, spin cycle bullshit that has brought this country down and promoting an adult and reasonable discourse that grapples with our problems.