This is the look of panic. The bluest state, the land of Kennedys, the safest cradle of the Democratic Party, is slipping away, going the way of states lost in the first year of the Obama presidency.
Today, just a day before the anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration, Democrats high and low are wiping the scales from their eyes and waking up to the specter of an enormous, far-reaching defeat in Massachusetts, the most stunning electoral upset in a long time anywhere.
At risk is all that's dearest to the Democrats: a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate
and the health care reform package. There is, of course, a chance that Martha Coakley, who had been a shoo-in to take Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, will scrape by, saved in a last-minute scramble by the party establishment. On Friday it was Bill Clinton, on Sunday the president, flying off to Boston to throw a lifeline to a candidate so clueless she made fun of her opponent for campaigning out in the cold at Fenway Park and misidentified the great Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling
as a Yankees fans. What?! Even if she wins a squeaker, she'll never live that down. But most likely she won't survive.
The latest polls show her opponent ahead by 4 to 10 percentage points. Republican state Sen. Scott Brown, who was 30 points behind Coakley just a month or so ago, built steam and a strong base of donors and volunteers, hammering at the issues that have made the grass-roots Tea Party movement into the darling of independents and conservatives everywhere.
Opposition to Obama's health care package and alarm over the jobless rate and the weak economy have spread like wildfire across the nation. It has stoked a fired-up nationwide protest against current Washington policies and what many Americans apparently see as an extension of big government, an alarm that exceeds any mandate Obama and the Democrats won in November 2008. Massachusetts, where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one, appears to be no exception to the national mood.
This is not Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts anymore.
But it is a wake-up call. So far the Democratic Party's loss ledger is startling: Virginia down, New Jersey down, now add Massachusetts. Something is not working, something is not resonating with America out there. The president's numbers are dropping, the Congress's approval ratings are in the drain, and the Tea Party movement is becoming more popular than either Democrats or Republicans. Obama's first year has been long and hard, and disillusionment has set it. Only the most optimistic will not foresee the train wreck that now seems likely to come in November.