The Prius Loses to the Pickup

03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last night, the people of the liberal state of Massachusetts temporarily walked away from predictability. Actually, it was more of a lurch.

Scott Brown's election was the perfect storm of a weak Democratic candidate, creeping anxieties about the president's ambition-to-accomplishment-ratio, stubborn unemployment, and an attractive alternative who was the stunning beneficiary of a "don't take us granted" groundswell.

And what about that pickup truck? While Detroit has been battered, it has left us the enduring iconography of a vehicle that encodes a specific catechism of values.

That's values, not policies. The pickup is non-partisan. It's been made a part of Democratic and Republican campaigns because it's a sheet metal song of America.

The pickup travels the road of simple ideas and gritty, urban-free common-sense. You don't take it, even in Massachusetts, to yoga class or to buy some arugula for dinner.

So the message to Obama is really two messages. The political one is clear, and there's no shortage of pundit pontification about health care, jobs, the deficit and Afghanistan.

The second message is stylistic - and it's the more troubling one for the president.

Bubbling underneath his poll numbers has always been this elitist meme - his egg white omelets, his comment about people who cling to guns and religion, his rarefied intellectualism.

He has time to address the policy issues, but stylistic issues stick longer and are harder to shake.

The old "do you want to have a beer with him" test - the one that sunk John Kerry - hasn't vanished The 2008 election, and the economic crisis, temporarily put it out to pasture.

But if you drive your pickup out to the edge of town, you can still see it.

Waiting for 2012.