As a former resident of, and still eligible voter in, the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I feel compelled to comment on yesterday’s special election to fill out the unexpired term of the late and great Ted Kennedy. As the entire universe now knows, Martha Coakley, the State Attorney General and Democratic candidate, lost to Scott Brown, a state legislator and the Republican candidate. This will have consequences, such as reducing the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate from 60 to 59. There are also numerous press reports and blog posts about how this is the death of health care, of Obama’s program, and of democracy as we know it. The circular firing squads are lining up even as I write.
So, two things. First, what happened? Simple. Democrats didn’t show up. Brown got about the same number of votes as John McCain did, but Coakley only got about 60% of the votes that Obama got. There was no massive swing to the Republicans. It’s just that the Democrats didn’t bother.
Second, why? Well, for one thing, Coakley ran what is perhaps the worst political campaign in modern memory, with the possible exception of Rudy Guiliani’s presidential campaign of 2008. Actually, both were premised on the same campaign philosophy–don’t actually go out and campaign. Make the voters come to you. I could never stand Coakley, frankly, not after the Louise Woodward case on which she made her name. And I’m not alone, in fact. So the fact that she blew a 31 point poll lead I find strangely comforting–it cofirms my intuitions that she’s a showboater of little brain. She won the primary against a couple of good candidates, particularly Congressman Mike Capuano (who would have clobbered Brown, I think) by running as the woman candidate. So this is the result of letting disgruntled Hilary supporters pick your nominee. And of picking a nominee who, astonishingly, doesn’t seem to know very much about the Red Sox.
So now what? Well, there’s lots of discussion about Plan B on healthcare, which, as Roy Edroso points out, seems a bit odd since “they barely had a Plan A”. More importantly, there’s lots of anguished wailing about how the Democrats lost because they weren’t conservative enough, or not liberal enough. Well, actually it was Coakley that lost, but still. I incline towards the latter. Those 800,000 people who voted for Obama and didn’t vote for Coakley–they didn’t vote Republican. They just didn’t feel like voting for Coakley, and for a fair number of them, maybe it was because it’s not clear at this point that the Democrats will actually fight for anything that voters think is worth fighting for–mainly jobs. I think Obama, if he’s to do anything, should recognize that people are just really, really worried. The sooner he starts addressing that, the better off the Democrats will be. And he really, really needs to have a good talk with Rahm Emmanuel. This 60 vote majority thing is just crap. Bush was able to get a whole lot of godawful legislation passed with a bare majority of Congress. The Democrats should be able to get some half-decent legislation passed with what is still an even larger majority.
The stamp above has nothing to do with yesterday’s election, but it is set in Massachusetts, and it’s a really attractive stamp–issued in 1975 as part of a whole series of stamps to celebrate the bicentennial.