Patricia McGuire
University president

Patricia McGuire

President of Trinity Washington University.


One-hit wonders

Q: How often do achievements like that of the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts seem to materialize out of thin air? Do you believe in the concept of overnight success?

After losing Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to a previously unknown Republican, Democrats in Massachusetts might be mourning their fate by humming, "Sometimes the system goes on the blink, and the whole thing turns out wrong... You had a bad day..."

Like Daniel Powter's song ("Bad Day"), the Democrats might be hoping that Scott Brown is a one-hit wonder. Meanwhile, the Obama White House is asking, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (another one-hit wonder).

In politics, like entertainment (sometimes they're hard to distinguish), rapid celebrity is common -- think Sarah Palin or Adam Lambert. America craves the latest new thing, whether it's guyliner with leather or moose dressing with sass.

Expecting their instant celebrities to deliver rapid and continuous excitement, Americans grow bored when the real work turns out to be harder (health care), messier (Gitmo, Afghanistan), more expensive (economic recovery) or stranger (Lambert, Palin) than they thought when they first fell in love with the new face on the scene.

Scott Brown's success in winning the Kennedy Senate seat has more to do with the fickle outlook of the American electorate than his own modest talent. Senator-elect Brown does know a thing or two about the mash-up of entertainment and politics; this is a guy who posed naked for Cosmopolitan to pay for law school, whose wife is a TV reporter, whose daughter Ayla appeared on "American Idol" and who announced at his victory speech that both daughters Ayla and Arianna are "available," whatever that means.

And let's not forget that Chevy truck with 200,000 miles on it --- everyone wants to know how that's even possible!

He hasn't even taken his oath of office, but already the insatiable public hunger for political newness has declared Brown a potential presidential candidate.

Brown's Republican colleagues might be humming "Don't Worry, Be Happy" right now (yes, another one-hit wonder), but they should remember history. Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was going to seal the deal for a permanent Republican majority. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was once the next big thing for the GOP.

And for Democrats, the Kennedy legend was once untouchable, supposedly secure through many generations of Kennedy cousins. Barack Obama's landslide just over a year ago was supposed to signify permanent change. The pendulum swings, and swings again, and changing political fortunes are as American as... Jay Leno's changing ratings.

Or, as Lee Greenwood sang in his one pop-hit wonder, "God Bless the U.S.A."

By Patricia McGuire  |  January 25, 2010; 12:02 AM ET  | Category:  "overnight" success , branding Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The high price of charity | Next: A long time coming

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company