Learning from Massachusetts …

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Scott Brown’s victory provides clear lessons for both Democratic Party and Republican Party operatives.  The question: whether these operatives will read the tea leaves correctly or incorrectly and, therefore, what measures they will take walking away from the situation.

Briefly, for the Republican Party, the message is clear: essentially every single seat is up for grabs in this fall’s elections if (a) they have a photogenic candidate, (b) maintain message discipline with truthiness-laden attacks on all policies, (c) avoid mentioning “Bush” (and invoke “Reagan”), and (d) if the Democratic Party “establishment” fails to heed the lessons of Massachusetts.

Now, as in New Jersey and Virginia, much of the Democratic Party knashing of teeth will resolve around Martha Coakley’s failures as a candidate (from failure to take the election seriously to, in the debate, stating that this was “Ted Kennedy’s seat to …).  There is (substantial) truth to these complaints, but this was not the core of what went on in Massachusetts (although, a more robust / stronger campaign and a Brown surge wouldn’t have seriously threatened Coakley).

From this election, many will propagate a message that “Obama is too left” and that “voters think he’s trying to do too much”.  This, however, simply flies in the face of both polling and on-the-ground reality.

Whether the issue is health care reform, financial sector reform, clean energy investments, or a myriad of other issues, almost certainly the real challenge is that (for good, bad, and indifferent reasons) the Democratic Party control of Congress and the White House is not creating “change” as voters expecting when surging to the polls in November 2008.

  • “Bailouts” are seen to favor Wall Street over Main Street. While ‘bankers’ (financial speculators) are seeing $billions in bonuses enabled by taxpayer money, the official unemployment rate is above 10% with far too many areas of the country double that figure (and the true un/underemployment rate far worse).  Even the correct message ‘it would have been far worse without the stimulus’ is a difficult message to ‘sell’ to someone seeing foreclosed signs on their neighbors’ homes (let alone their own).
  • The American public overwhelming supports a public option as part of creating a true national health care system. Health Care Reform (HCR) has been walked away from even a fig leaf of a “public option”(let alone setting the stage for the most cost effective and health care effective option: single payer) to a path that will boost health insurance profits while doing far too little to improve the actual health care system.   The complex horsetrading to gain votes has undermined support even further, with Massachusetts (and other) voters wondering why Nebraskans should be permanently subsidized at their expense.
  • Climate Change legislation has stalled into a complex morass, heavily subsidizing polluting industries while falling short of what scientific analysis says is the minimum required action and failing to create enough clean energy investment to keep the United States competitive with the PRC and other nations seizing commanding positions in the clean energy revolution.

And, well, so on.

Rather than being “liberal” or somehow “leftwing”, the perception (and reality?) is that pursuit of the legislative agenda often has results that are far more Corporatist rather than Populist.

In Virginia, Creigh Deeds ran a campaign that, increasingly, ran away from the Democratic Party’s base, embracing ‘tea bagger’-friendly messaging, and the Commonwealth’s Democratic voters showed their apathy last November.   Better options existed.

Martha Coakley certainly didn’t run away from the Democratic Party (in fact, has perhaps run too much to it), has strongly stated sensible policy options (such as on energy), but she is saddled with an increasing frustration with impressions (often fostered due to shallow and distorting traditional media reporting) and the realities as to the inadequacies of policy action and the implications of actual/potential legislation.

The Democratic Party’s base and all those other Americans who surged to the polls in November 2008 supporting change see what is going on (and not) with health care reform, see the news of bankers’ bonuses and stagnating unemployment, and get confused about what is happening in terms of climate/clean energy legislation.  They see all this and are frustrated, frustrated that “change” isn’t occurring as they see possible, promised, and necessary.

Many in the Democratic Party will take the wrong message from Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts: that voters are angry over “librul” policy action and concepts. In fact, despite the highly visible nature of ‘tea bagger revolt’ (enabled by Faux and Balanced network policy), a stronger reality is frustration over perception and reality of inadequate action, of failures to heed the need for massive change to both confront our challenges (fiscal, energy, environmental, societal) and seize the opportunities for positive action to change Americans’ lives and America for the better.

The tea bagger movement derives from many things but, at least in part, from a real populist frustration over what is seen as inadequate measures to address things like financial fraud and inadequate measures to defend Main Street (from Wall Street and other challenges). The lesson from Massachusetts should not be “kill off sensible and necessary change” but the reverse.

The message for the Democratic Party, in the face of the Brown victory, should be:

Seize the mandate for change and drive change for the better through Congress and onto Main Street.

If Democratic candidates wish to win in November, then they should drive for (for example) serious clean energy jobs legislation and funding which can put (literally) millions of Americans back to work in the coming months (before the election).

For Republican prospects in November, they should hope that the Democratic Party (and its operatives) take a lesson to strive to appeal to the ‘tea bagger’ groundswell via even weaker legislative action.  After all,

If facing a choice between someone pretending to be a Republican and a Republican, voters will choose a Republican.*

(* Note, the converse is also true.  When facing a choice between a Democratic candidate and someone pretending to be a Democrat, voters will select the Democratic candidate.  An excellent example of this was the Merkley-Smith Oregon race in 2008.)

NOTE: Original version written/published prior to election results.


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  1. the freaking TeaBaggers, who we comically named without them realizing the double meaning, those knuckleheads took this election.

    So funny!

    If the Paultards cared, which luckily the core group has moved on, I am sure we could get a posse of teabaggerists together to rain unholy hell on the Democrats this fall.

    Thank your lucky stars we went back to pop culture.

    But seriously, HAhAHAhAhAHAhAHAHAAHAH!!!!

  2. It is about corporatist/populist and insider/outsider. For all the talk of change, transparency, and giving the boot to lobbyists, what anyone who is paying attention sees is business as usual, backroom deals, and gifts to corporate america.

    We didn’t work and vote for changiness. We worked and voted for change, and we aren’t getting it. The dems must fix this or they will be blasted in november. And now it is one vote harder to get that change. Congrats on the squandered mandate dems.  

  3. http://proliberty.com/observer

    So blame Bush becomes the mantra even if Bilderberg Bill Clinton started the bend over globalization grease thing with NAFTA and banking deregulation.

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