This week’s election of Massachusetts relatively obscure State Senator Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate was a wake-up call to all politicians in Washington that the Americans are fed up with business as usual in the Beltway. Martha Coakley may not have been the strongest campaigner, but after all–this is Massachusetts–the true-blue state that voted over 60 percent for Barack Obama just over a year ago!
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I do have to admit that my adult son and I spent almost three hours alone on a downtown corner in an election-day snowstorm holding signs for Martha Coakley. We recorded 52 thumbs-up from passing motorists vs. only 29 thumbs down during about a thirty-minute time period when we were making our strictly unscientific poll. Since our town and the whole state voted strongly for Brown, the only thing we were able to confirm was the complete unreliability of these unscientific polls!
So, what does it all mean? Well, first of all, it means that the people are unhappy with the slow pace of the recovery and the higher-than-ten percent unemployment rate (9.4 percent here in Massachusetts). Secondly, they seem to be angry with both Democrats whom they view as trying to spend our way out of the recession by using huge amounts of taxpayer money (adding to the deficit) with additional government programs like health care. Although many people in Massachusetts support the idea of health care for the 30 million Americans who do not have any health care (and the elimination of prior conditions as a rationale for rejection ), they are incensed with back-room deals and a perceived lack of transparency in developing a health care bill. While this looks like good news for Republicans, it is clear that they should not be licking their chops just yet. Surveys and interviews with voters show that the people are also not happy with Republicans who seem to be refusing to compromise, and are now beginning to be known as the Party of “No.” Many people I spoke to point to the fact that Republicans and Conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint or Rush Limbaugh seem to WANT Barack Obama to fail and are, therefore, doing everything within their power to be obstructionist and confrontational–refusing to work with the President or to offer realistic compromises.
For those who pay attention to history, it is clear that this financial crisis does not belong to any ONE political party. After all, Democrat Bill Clinton left a $237 billion surplus for Republican George Bush and a Republican Congress. President Bush and his policies caused that surplus to disappear largely through unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving Democrat Barack Obama (on entering office) a $1.3 trillion deficit.
The general view seems to be that Scott Brown–an attractive and energetic campaigner–was able to tap into all of that voter frustration. Running a smart campaign, he is the beneficiary of all of that voter anger and angst. His job now is to prove that he is, in fact, the independent thinker, shaker and mover that he purported to be. In the spirit of good government and true bipartisanship, I wish him all the best. Our country needs it; our democracy demands it.
NOW, ONTO SOME OTHER CONCERNS OF THE WEEK:
Kudos to the American people who have rallied to the cause of disaster relief in Haiti by donating over 377 million dollars in the past two weeks. As an American and an educator for nearly 37 years, it makes me proud to see how average citizens–many in financial difficulty themselves–have dug deeply to help friends in the world community who have been stricken by the disaster in Haiti. While so many countries–including the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Israel, Spain, and China–have sent doctors and/or rescue squads, many are also contributing huge amounts of money. Based upon the percentage of amounts donated and/or pledged and on the per capita contributions (which takes the population of each country into account), it seems that the leading contributors are the United States, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, France, the World Bank, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the European Commission. I hope the contributions continue to flow in –even as Haiti fades from the nightly news reports, and the media focuses on other areas of the world.
Since they often are ridiculed for the causes they espouse, I also want to thank those celebrities who were involved as performers or phone handlers in the telethon for Haiti relief which was on all three networks yesterday. Sure, our society rewards superstar celebrities with nearly obscene salaries for their singing or acting, but it behooves us to point out that a large number of these celebrities really do seem to have genuine social consciences that cause them to go into action to help in the worst of times. Thanks to celebrities such as George Clooney, Madonna, Sting, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Kid Rock, Neil Young, JayZ, Beyonce, Shakira Wyclef Jean, Bono, Sheryl Crow, and Rhiana who all performed (partial list). Thanks also to those who manned the phones: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood, Halle Berry, Ben Stiller, Stephen Spielberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Reese Witherspoon. As of this morning, their efforts had already raised 67 million dollars. Quite a few of these celebrities have also made major contributions from their own personal fortunes to Haiti relief. Just a few of the heavy contributors: Sandra Bullock (1 million dollars), Leonardo DiCaprio (1 million dollars), Madonna (250,000 dollars), Clooney/Pitt and others (1 million dollars)..
Just a few words on the NFL playoffs……..I am writing this just as the AFC Championship game begins. As I think of the millions of fans who are diverted by football for a few hours from their financial or personal problems, I am reminded a bit of my Shakespeare classes at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. It seemed that even in the midst of a classic tragedy like Macbeth, Shakespeare managed to introduce some comic relief—just to allow the audience to breathe a bit–before the worst to come. One hopes that we have already seen the worst, but it is nice–nevertheless–to be able to take a breath, watch the Jets, the Colts, the Vikings, and the Saints–and be concerned only with yards per carry, interceptions, quarterback sacks, and the like. If only the problems of the world could be so simple.
Colts defeat Jets 24-21; (Jets’ defense not enough to stop Manning) and Saints defeat Vikings 31-27 (Bret Favre is good (and Adrian Peterson could help), but Drew Brees is better.
Until Next Week………….