The 2008 presidential race was an extraordinary campaign that culminated in the election of an extraordinary candidate. But extraordinary is a difficult beast to manage. Candidate Barack Obama was much better at achieving his historic election victory than President Barack Obama has been at managing his historic governing opportunity.
After only 15 months in office, the popular rebellions against the president and his governing party have been multiplying. A year after Obama's election, Republican Bob McDonnell won back the previously Democratic held governor's mansion in Virginia with 59 percent of the vote. One might say that Virginia goes back and forth. But at the same time, Republican Chris Christie defeated sitting Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in liberal New Jersey by four percentage points, or 100,000 votes. Then in January, the vote heard round the American political world was the election in Massachusetts of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, which was assumed to be safer than safe for any Democratic candidate.
In the meantime, something called the Tea Party movement has been growing in numbers and visible activity. The original Boston Tea Party was a protest against an illegitimate tax by a far away, power-usurping British Parliament. The parallel isn't neat, but it's relevant. These people are protesting not just high taxes and even higher taxes to come, but also the level of power grabbing, intrusive government activity that requires those taxes. The political significance of this raging grass fire can be measured by the growing number and intensity of attacks on the movement by panicking Democrats and their friends in the mainstream media who refer to those participating as racists and potential terrorists.
But popular anger goes far beyond self-identified Tea Partiers. The Pew Research Center has just released the results of polling done in March that indicates a much broader disapproval of this overwhelming Democratic government activism: "Just 22% say they can trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time, among the lowest measures in half a century." As The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger put it yesterday, "This report isn't bad news for the Democrats. It's Armageddon." He called it "the Pew blowout data":
"In 1994 when the Democrats lost over 50 House seats at mid-term, the party's favorable rating was 62%, and for the Congress they controlled it was 53%. They still got killed. Now the party's favorable is 38% and Congress's approval is 25%. The Republicans' numbers are low, too, but they're not in charge."
This week, we have further rumblings that suggest the earth is about to open up and swallow one of our two major parties in November. On Tuesday, New Jersey voters came out in large numbers to defeat 59 percent of proposed local school budgets. Turnout was 24 percent of registered voters. Last year it was only 13.4 percent. It hasn't exceeded 18.6 percent in a quarter century. Wow. Ordinarily, 70 percent of school budgets are approved. That's another wow. These are suburban, liberal New Jerseyites, many of whom work in liberal New York City.
This does not mean the end of the world is coming. It's just the end of Obamaworld as we've known it since January 2009. That's why our current president and his sympathetic Congress are working so hard to remake the world as much as they can before January 2011. It may be a very different world for all of us.