The Campaign Spot

No, Really, Eugene Robinson Always Thought You Were All a Bunch of Brats.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, in today’s column:

According to polls, Americans are in a mood to hold their breath until they turn blue. Voters appear to be so fed up with the Democrats that they’re ready to toss them out in favor of the Republicans — for whom, according to those same polls, the nation has even greater contempt. This isn’t an “electoral wave,” it’s a temper tantrum.

It’s bad enough that the Democratic Party’s “favorable” rating has fallen to an abysmal 33 percent, according to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. It’s worse that the Republican Party’s favorability has plunged to just 24 percent. But incredibly, according to Gallup, registered voters say they intend to vote for Republicans over Democrats by an astounding 10-point margin. Respected analysts reckon that the GOP has a chance of gaining 45 to 60 seats in the House, which would bring Minority Leader John Boehner into the speaker’s office.

My guess is that with a decided advantage in campaign funds, along with the other advantages of incumbency, Democrats will be able to mitigate these prospective losses — perhaps even relieving Nancy Pelosi of the hassles of moving. But there’s no mistaking the public mood, and the truth is that it makes no sense.

In the punditry business, it’s considered bad form to question the essential wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious: The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.

This is not, I repeat not, a partisan argument. My own political leanings are well-known, but the refusal of Americans to look seriously at the nation’s situation — and its prospects — is an equal-opportunity scourge. Republicans got the back of the electorate’s hand in 2006 and 2008; Democrats will feel the sting this November. By 2012, it will probably be the GOP’s turn to get slapped around again.

The nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems. While they’re running for office, politicians of both parties encourage this kind of magical thinking. When they get into office, they’re forced to try to explain that things aren’t quite so simple — that restructuring our economy, renewing the nation’s increasingly rickety infrastructure, reforming an unsustainable system of entitlements, redefining America’s position in the world and all the other massive challenges that face the country are going to require years of effort. But the American people don’t want to hear any of this. They want somebody to make it all better. Now.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, in his first column written after Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election:

It’s safe to say that I’ve never had such a deeply emotional reaction to a presidential election. I’ve found it hard to describe, though, just what it is that I’m feeling so strongly.

It’s obvious that the power of this moment isn’t something that only African Americans feel. When President Bush spoke about the election yesterday, he mentioned the important message that Americans will send to the world, and to themselves, when the Obama family moves into the White House.

For African Americans, though, this is personal.

I can’t help but experience Obama’s election as a gesture of recognition and acceptance — which is patently absurd, if you think about it. The labor of black people made this great nation possible. Black people planted and tended the tobacco, indigo and cotton on which America’s first great fortunes were built. Black people fought and died in every one of the nation’s wars. Black people fought and died to secure our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We don’t have to ask for anything from anybody.

Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there’s more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there’s more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.

For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say “it’s morning again in America.” The new sunshine feels warm on my face.

There is more meaning now in his expressions of patriotism, his love for this temper-tantrum throwing nation of spoiled brats.