Tuesday January 19, 2010, in an upset victory, the Senate seat once held by John Kennedy and his younger brother Edward Kennedy went to a Republican – State Senator Scott Brown. Many in the political arena, especially the bloggers and commentators, saw this as a "referendum on health care", or a "41st vote" in the Senate, another check on the Democrat majority in Congress.
While it is certainly sobering to see the "super majority" in the Senate broken, one thing that is obvious is that most Americans, on all edges of the political spectrum, have not regained the perspective they so clearly need.
What do I mean?
Fourteen years ago in 1996, we saw the first presidential campaigns to feature web sites. Kansas Senator Bob Dole and former New York Congressman Jack Kemp ran on the Republican ticket with President Clinton and Vice Pres Gore running for re-election on the Democrat ticket. The Internet was moving into the mainstream, with the number of households with a computer and an Internet connection (albeit mostly dial-up at that time) increasing at a huge rate. The United States and the world was moving into the Internet age, and we started growing more impatient at the years grew on and we started becoming more tied to our digital lives.
Today you’d be very hard pressed to find someone without an e-mail address, and while a little easier, though not much, it would still be difficult to find someone without a Facebook profile or Twitter feed. Our society has become the epitome of "instant gratification", so much so that the people do not understand, even with almost a trillion dollars of spending earmarked in the US Treasury, why the economy has not only not improved, but has gotten worse since Obama was inaugurated one year ago this day.
The concept of something actually taking days, weeks, months, or even years has escaped most everyone today. Now if a problem cannot be corrected in minutes, let alone hours, we think there is something wrong with whomever is trying to make the corrections without realizing that perhaps the nature of the problem is the reason corrections won’t come quick.
Now Scott Brown is in a unique position, in that he has the potential to deliver on one "instant gratification" promise: stopping the massive health care bill from leaving Capitol Hill, assuming parliamentary tricks are not employed by Democrats.
And one lesson that all of Washington needs to learn is this: the Independents control the elections. You may have established party bases that you can rely on to make up a certain percentage of the vote, but you must still placate the independent majority.
Few incumbencies are like Edward Kennedy’s, going pretty much until death. Few incumbencies go until the person voluntarily decides to not seek re-election. Remember that.
To the rest of the American people, here is one lesson you need to learn: nothing happens at Internet pace. Let me give you an example.
There is an online game called Puzzle Pirates — I play occasionally and not nearly to the extent I once did. One aspect of the game seemingly unique to Puzzle Pirates is its open market economy. Prices are controlled by the economic theory of supply and demand — capitalism runs relatively free on Puzzle Pirates, though it is restricted by certain hard-coded rules within the game.
Within Puzzle Pirates one way to make money is by running a forage operation. Others come to forage for you at your operation, you pay them based on what they bring in, and you eventually sell what is foraged for a profit, assuming you can make it to your destination without getting intercepted. Running a forage operation is the epitome of patience. Profits will not come quick, and there is great expense to be made up front.
With patience and determination, things will pay off — for several months while I was unemployed, I ran arguably the largest forage operation in the game, reaping considerable profits and generating considerable wealth within the game.
But during that time I ran into a lot of people who tried to compete with me, failing miserably in the process, who thought that the forage operations were a great way to get rich. Done properly they are, but their fallacy was assuming they could get rich quick, and it doesn’t work that way. Like any business, my forage operation started out small, on one of the smaller ships in the game, and eventually grew to encompass several large ships in a kind of foraging armada.
I was patient.
And that is what we have lost in this country: patience. We now expect that things will happen at Internet pace. I’m sure there were those who thought that on Election Day 2008 or Inauguration Day 2009 things would suddenly change because Obama was elected. The only thing that changed that day was the person sitting as President of the United States. Many were newly unemployed that day, and many more, like me, were still unemployed for extended periods of time.
Since that Inauguration Day, however, the President and Congress have been trying to make things happen at Internet pace, and the rest of the world just doesn’t work that way.
And even the next election day people were counting down to 2010 and 2012. Obama was just elected, but people were not even willing to give him a chance — they were more than ready to see him gone, and could not wait for the opportunity to oust him from office. In 2006, if not 2005, we were seeing Democrats announcing their candidacy for President. Bush had been re-elected and many couldn’t wait to see him finally gone, as he was now prohibited by the Constitution from seeking the Presidency ever again.
Even this year many cannot wait for November. While those in Washington should be afraid about losing their jobs, the rest of the people need to be even more careful than before, fully vetting our candidates before going to the ballot box.
While many say that Brown’s election to the Senate should be a wake-up call to those in Washington to slow down, we all need a similar wake-up call. Nothing happens at Internet pace, and we all need to slow down and renew our patience.