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Defeat in Massachusetts

La Opinin, Editorial, Staff Posted: Jan 23, 2010

The Democrats loss of the Massachusetts senatorial election has its own unique characteristics with two opposing candidates, one a conservative populist with a message of change, and the other, who represented a sort of political continuation of the establishment. Change won again, as in the last presidential election, the difference being that now it is Barack Obamas turn to lose, and he is largely responsible for this defeat.

The president took office with a mandate for change that was reflected only in sparkling oratory during his first year in the White House. This is utterly inadequate given the expectations created by his election.

Over this period, the administration has not influenced or pressed Congress on Obamas agenda, as have preceding administrations. Whats worse is that they havent even tried.

Obama failed to dominate the public debate by ceding too much influence to Congress in the drafting of vital bills, like healthcare reform.

As a result Obama is the president with the best record in getting Congress to pass measures he has supported, according to the Congressional Quarterly. This achievement is worthless though, if the laws fail to meet the needs of the time and the hopes he awakened.

The White House was passive in situations that required firm action in the face of criticism. Thus, it allowed the opposition to build excitement by casting Obama as an extremist, while at the same time, leaving his supporters disappointed. They have seen the president bargain away his principles to get legislation passed.

Now he needs to retake firm control of the public debate, focusing on the economy, where it hurts most.

The administration must also rekindle the fervor of Obama supporters, despite disappointments such as sending more troops to Afghanistan. Or yesterday, when the Guantnamo detention center was to be closed, as he promised a year ago.

With respect to Congress, the conciliatory style is effective if there is someone to appreciate it on the other side of the bargaining table. That has not been the case with the Republicans who have seen it as a weakness and have take advantage of it at every turn.

Obama promised change and the perception outside Washington is that it has not come, for better or worse. Patience gave way to frustration in Massachusetts, and was costly with the loss of a key seat in the Senate. But there is still plenty of time and many opportunities ahead to get back on the right track.

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