As any pilot will tell you, an aircraft that exceeds its design speed will vibrate and shake before it disintegrates and crashes.

That’s the warning President Barack Obama should take away from Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts, where a little-known Republican claimed the safest Democratic U.S. Senate seat in the country.

State Sen. Scott Brown won a narrow victory over the state’s better-known Democratic attorney general, Martha Coakley, snatching a seat that had been in Democratic hands for more than 40 years.

Today, many will view Coakley’s defeat as rejection of the president’s efforts to “reform” American health care, and they will be partly correct. The plan on the verge of passage in the U.S. Congress is large, complex and expensive — all of which understandably worries ordinary Americans.

It also bears a striking resemblance to the Massachusetts plan introduced in 2005 by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, most notably for using tax penalties to force residents and employers to purchase health care insurance.

At the time, Romney’s plan was hailed as an innovative solution to a persistent national problem, but, three years after adoption, some in Massachusetts are unconvinced. A recent poll shows 51 percent support the “Health Connector,” but 62 percent think it is unsustainably expensive.

Not only has it failed to cover about half the state’s uninsured, costs have exceeded projections, and Gov. Deval Patrick has resorted to draining money from other health care providers to pay for it. Meanwhile, Massachusett’s health care costs — thought by some to be the highest in the world — have continued to climb unabated

The mandates have further enriched health insurance companies, and the state agency that runs the new program adds another extra 4 or 5 percent in administrative costs to what the health insurers already extract.

Scott Brown’s victory Tuesday may be seen as Massachusetts voters telling the nation to turn back, the bridge is out.

But his stunning upset says even more about the future of Obama’s agenda and aspirations. Ordinary Americans are increasingly shaken by the scope and pace of change in Washington as Obama tries to simultaneously reshape our financial, educational, health care and energy systems, while fighting two wars, running the auto industry, bailing out the economy and rebuilding Haiti.

It doesn’t help that everything he does is second-guessed by a viciously partisan Congress and a multimedia blast furnace of columnists, talking heads, radio ranters, bloggers and protesters, all resorting to varying levels of hysteria and misinformation.

As a result, ordinary Americans feel like white-knuckle passengers on a jetliner that is picking up speed and spiraling out of control.

Now Democrats are left with two unappealing options. First, to move forward, ignoring this clear signal from the land of liberalism as well as polls showing most Americans oppose their plan.

Or, to concede that health reform cannot be achieved with one, sweeping gesture, and work with Republicans on a much less dramatic program.

Either choice will leave them facing even angrier voters this fall.

[email protected] 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.