In a campaign season marked by an almost irrational anti-establishment mood, “arrogant,” it seems, is the new scarlet “A.”
President Obama gets called that a lot by his opponents, and for some pretty flimsy reasons. Daring to run for office with less than a full term in the U.S. Senate? Arrogant! Trying to pass a healthcare package? Arrogant! When Obama calmly (if perhaps unkindly) reminded Sen. John McCain, during a bipartisan discussion on healthcare, that “the campaign is over,” McCain’s vice presidential pick responded with the slur du jour: “Todd and I both saw that,” Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity on his ABC radio show. “And we both said, you know, how arrogant for our president to say that.”
Then there’s Mike Parry, the Minnesota state senate candidate who tweeted that Obama is a “power-hungry black man” (the tweet has since been scrubbed). Democrat Artur Davis lost the gubernatorial primary in Alabama because “he was arrogant as hell,” said columnist Roland Martin.
Now, California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has lobbed the A-word at her opponent, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, for Boxer’s request during a hearing that she be addressed as “Senator” and not as “ma’am.”
“It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you,’’ Boxer told Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing last June.
Fiorina, in a new ad that seeks to give the former Hewlett-Packard CEO that very senatorial title, slams Boxer for wanting it herself: "Twenty-eight years in Washington and Barbara Boxer works hard for a title? I'll really go to work to end the arrogance in Washington."
Voters, to be sure, often reward those candidates who seem just like the rest of us, and candidates respond. They run campaign ads showing their smiling, happy families (OK, maybe not quite so much like the rest of us) or crow about the trucks they drive all over the state. Supposedly, Americans want a president and congressmen they can have a beer with. I’d like to believe Americans want people who have the experience and background to solve serious problems. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to lose touch with so-called regular Americans. But doesn’t it require uncommon ability, energy, and temperament--and maybe even a little arrogance--to take on the nation’s problems?
Senator Boxer earned her title, and Fiorina, who’s giving Boxer a strong challenge, may take it away. And if she does, she will deserve to be called “Senator.”