Despite Obama's best efforts, Martha Coakley was soundly defeated by Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday's special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. There are a few instant impressions that one can take from this result.
One is that the Democratic brand is tarnished, and the reasons for this are manifold. The unpopularity of health insurance reform in its current format would be one of them. The compromise proposal isn't winning over any conservatives or entrenched Republicans, and fails to motivate liberals to support the policy.
Nationally speaking Obama hasn't been viewed as the inspirational leader his campaign portrayed him to be. Though he remains a popular president in general, either his policies aren't catching on with the electorate or he has not effectively sold them. There is a wealth of valid criticism over his appointments of Wall Street insiders to the Treasury and his continuing support of Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve.
Striking the middle road in Afghanistan has also been a mark against Obama. There is widespread criticism from the left whenever a president escalates a conflict by sending more soldiers overseas. The escalation was made with a rough blueprint for reassessment and withdrawal within a certain number of months, drawing complaints from the right. Liberals again found reason for their bitterness when Obama's withdrawal plans were themselves quickly withdrawn.
In the meantime the economy's stability appears fragile at best. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed and tens of millions on top of that are underemployed, working for wages and benefits far to low to raise their families. Obama is unable to push any job-creation stimulus without criticism over expansive federal spending, but businesses are so strapped for cash that another round of furloughs and layoffs may be imminent.
Amidst all of this bad news, a special election is held in Massachusetts to replace beloved liberal Senator Teddy Kennedy, and the normally Democratic electorate in that state sent a clear message to President Obama and the Democratic Party: stand up and fight for principled, innovative and vigorous legislation to help WE THE PEOPLE, or step aside.