January 20, 2010 11:22AM

The Tea Party Comes Home

Today, Politico Arena asks:

The message from Massachusetts

What now for the Democratic agenda?

My response:

Listening to Scott Brown’s long, barely scripted acceptance speech last night, you had the refreshing sense that you were listening to an ordinary American, not to some political cut‐​out. Here’s a guy who campaigned in a pick‐​up truck with over 200,000 miles on the odometer, who listened to the voters and understood that they wanted not simply to block tax hikes but to lower taxes (and the last thing they wanted was for their taxes to pay terrorists’ lawyers bills!), who understood that even worse than the health care bill now before Congress were the back‐​room deals that brought it about, who’s served proudly for 30 years in the National Guard — in short, here’s guy you’d be comfortable having a beer with because, as he said, “I know who I am and I know who I serve.”

Which brings to mind the famous Rose Garden beer the president and vice president shared with Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley — speaking of (dis)comfort. And that brings to mind Cambridge, which stayed true blue, 84 – 15, Walter Russell Mead informs us this morning in his delightfully tongue‐​in‐​cheek Arena post. (“First, some good news for Democrats: the base is secure.”) As goes Harvard, so goes Berkeley.

But to today’s Arena question. The Democratic left is predictably outraged that “the people” they so love in the abstract have so disappointed them in the concrete. Exhibit A is last night’s Arena post by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel. Railing against “the Tea Party’s inchoate right‐​wing populism” (if it’s infested Massachusetts, shudder to think of it in Idaho!), Katrina tells Obama to “get tough, get bold, kiss ‘post‐​partisanship’ goodbye,” and “put yourself squarely back on the side of working people” by “passing the strongest possible healthcare bill as quickly as is feasible.” And there’s the cliff, Katrina.

Lanny Davis has more sober advice for Obama in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. To those who are pointing fingers at Martha Coakley, Lanny says, “This was a defeat not of the messenger but of the message” — the unrelenting leftism that has come from this White House and this Congress. And he points, by way of instruction, to Bill Clinton’s response to the disastrous elections of 1994, though he doesn’t mention Clinton’s ringing, albeit inaccurate, description of his course‐​change — “The era of big government is over.” Is it in Obama’s DNA to make such a course correction? Does he have a reset button?

On health care, Obama and his party are in an almost impossible situation. If they press ahead, as Nancy Pelosi and others are urging, the cliff awaits them in November. But if they abandon their project, what will they run on in November? It’s a mess of their own making, of course, so completely did they misread the election of 2008. What better evidence of the endurance of principles of sound, limited government that some two centuries later, The Tea Party has come home to Boston.