Where's the Hope?

It's the day after the day after. And the punditocracy is still analyzing the off year elections. I thought E.J. Dionne had the most sober take--bad news for incumbents, Democrats, an annoyed electorate. If anything I think he may have underestimated the level of irritability out there. The defeat of Thomas Suozzi, the executive in Nassau County, should have been a real wake up call to Democrats. His election marked a big gain for the party in the land of D'Amato. Now it's gone. E.J.'s smartest take, I think, is the failure of the Obama base to be fired up and ready to go. A year's time has dampened some hope. That doesn't mean it can't and won't come back. The world will look different in a few months if we have 5 percent growth and something like universal health care.

But a few things have happened that are worth noting. One is that the high expectations of Obama's election were bound to run into the realities of Washington--the sluggish Senate, the culture of lobbying, the practicalities of problems as diverse as Guantanamo Bay to bailing out GM. That was inevitable, of course, and Obama supporters knew in their hearts it wouldn't be easy.

Something else happened, too. Somewhere along the way the inspirational language of the campaign got lost. There's a lot less hope in Obama's speeches than there once was. Some speeches still soar. That health care address did pretty well at putting him on the right footing. But his rhetoric and tone seems less moving and galvinizing than it once did. Am I wrong in feeling like something's missing? Let me know.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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