Who would have thought the voters of Massachusetts -- the same folks who elected liberal Teddy Kennedy to the Senate nine times over 46 years -- would bring President Obama's health-care reform to a grinding halt?
Yet, that's what they did last week when they elected Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Kennedy. Brown's victory breaks the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, which means Republicans will now have a say in shaping (or killing) legislation, including the health-care proposal.
The message in Brown's surprising victory should not be lost on President Obama or the members of Congress -- Democrats as well as Republicans.
Most Americans are uneasy with the concept of one-party rule. They find comfort in knowing that any action taken by Congress will require a consensus that includes voices from the minority party.
The health-care reform legislation was cobbled together with political promises and payoffs. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., traded his vote to end the Republican filibuster for exempting his state's residents from having to pay for Medicaid costs.
It didn't feel right to folks on the political right and center. Even some who favored the direction health-care reform was headed were uncomfortable with the ugly way the legislation was put together.
Still, we understand Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley for several reasons. The campaign wasn't only about health care. Political campaigns rarely turn on a specific issue, particularly when a Republican wins in a solid blue state (Obama received 57 percent of the vote).
Nevertheless, it seems as if Brown's margin of victory (52-47) was influenced by basic fairness. The Massachusetts voters didn't just elect Brown, they affirmed the checks and balances of government that ensure one party or one person doesn't hold absolute power.
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