BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat held for decades by Sen. Edward Kennedy dealt a huge blow to the Democratic Party and the White House’s ambitious legislative agenda.
Despite the fact that Democratic candidate Martha Coakley waged a poor campaign and that the state and national Democratic parties remained largely unengaged in this race, the single overwhelming message from this contest is that voters are expressing their discontent with the White House. This was the third such defeat for the Obama Administration, which, in the fall, lost two gubernatorial seats in New Jersey and Virginia to the Republican Party.
Voter dissatisfaction is the product of a number of factors, including, of course, the macro-issues that lead the news, such as healthcare reform and economic recovery, but also, and very powerfully, the electoral unrest we are seeing today is also the result of the collective impact of the Administration’s disappointments of individual constituencies over specific policy failures. No where is this more evident than in the Armenian American community, a voting bloc that energetically backed the Obama campaign, but has, in the months since the President’s inauguration, been betrayed and even insulted on a regular basis.
Conversations with relatives, friends and Armenian community members in Massachusetts during the past several days revealed the searing disappointment and discouragement in the Armenian American electorate with the Obama Administration and, fairly or unfairly, with his Democratic allies in Congress. Hope has turned to anger, and, as a result, we are seeing Armenians upset with the President’s broken Armenian Genocide pledge simply writing off anything to do with a president who could not find the courage to honor his word on a fundamental matter of human rights.
“We saw what our support last year resulted in,” or “Why should I support someone who has accepted an ward from the ADL” (Coakley reportedly was given an award by the Genocide denying Anti-Defamation League), or “I am going to vote for Brown just to send a message to Obama,” were just a sampling of comments I heard during my conversations with the folks in Massachusetts. Clearly, the Administration’s Democratic Congressional allies are already bearing the brunt of this frustration.
For her part, Coakley issued her statement to the Armenian-American community only four days before the election – too little, too late – especially given the sharpened skepticism that the President’s failure to honor his supposedly “rock-solid” pledge has fostered in the Armenian American electorate. If she had worked harder and smarter and done some real outreach, she could have overcome the “handicap” that Obama saddled her with among Armenian American voters, but she didn’t, likely costing her tens of thousands of votes that could have helped shift the election her way.
As we enter the mid-term election cycle this year, voter discontent with the Obama Administration and its policies will resonate on the national level, but more fervently they will echo within the Armenian-American voting base as the hope for change promised last year during the election campaign has turned into not just unfulfilled campaign promises but a disregard toward the Armenian-American community by the White House, the State Department and the entire administration.
Bearing the brunt of this will be our Democratic Congressional allies who have fought long and hard for our community’s aspirations and are seeking re-election this year.
One of the key races of 2010 will be the Nevada U.S. Senate race, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a long-time supporter of Armenian issues and a cosponsor of the Senate Genocide bill, S. Res. 316, is currently trailing in the polls against Republican opponents Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. If elected, Tarkanian would be the first Armenian-American to serve in the Senate.
In Illinois, the Armenian community has already thrown its support behind Republican Armenian Caucus co-chairman Mark Kirk in his race to take the Senate seat once held by President Obama.
In the wake of the disappointments of this past year, the Armenian-American community is energized to deliver its greatest turnout ever at the polling booths this November. In what is sure to be a hotly contested electoral season, every vote will count, and, as far as Armenian-Americans are concerned, every vote will have to be earned as well.
After the disappointment of this past year, the Armenian-American community is poised to hit the polling booths in greater numbers and more vocally campaign for its interests in Washington. The results might not bode well for the Obama Administration, which right now enjoys an absolute majority in Congress.
A lot can change between now and November. President Obama can, and should, start by first honoring his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide and then instructing his State Department to back off on the Protocols, strengthen ties with Armenia, and support the self-determination of Nagorno Karabakh.