The final score will show Scott Brown with a 3%-6% win over Martha Coakley in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, and the race to assign blame is on. Why did Brown win? The simple answer is that he outworked his opponent. The state senator held more than three times as many campaign events as Coakley, and endeared himself to the working class independents who comprise half of the Massachusetts electorate.
That’s right folks; Massachusetts is not a Democratic stronghold. Ted Kennedy held the family Senate seat, and his persona and coatails pulled other Democrats with him into federal office year after year. State politics was always another matter; Republicans controlled the Governor’s mansion for 16 years until Deval Patrick won in 2006, and his hold on the office is tenuous at best. Scott Brown, with his plain-spoken demeanor, 200,000 mile green pickup, and work ethic made the sale for voters who are tired of the Democratic Party.
In the end, it wasn’t the Tea-Baggers who drove this train; Scott Brown ran away from them at every turn. Healthcare was not the driving force either; Massachusetts has already passed a version of universal care. The Democratic Party’s association with Wall Street over the last decade, after years spent fighting against it, decided this election. Polled before the issues became daily news fodder, working class Americans were solidly in favor of pharmaceutical reforms, the repeal of insurance anti-trust exemptions, some form of universal health care, and stimulative spending. All of these issues trended into the 70% range before the GOP successfully re-branded them. But the one issue that Americans loudly and universally demanded Washington address last year, was financial services reform; and Obama didn’t answer the call.
The TARP bailouts were less popular before the Bush Administration passed them than health reform is now, and the Obama Administration had a mandate to ensure that banks played by a set of rules in the future that you and I must abide by now. The failure of the President and his party to address financial reform when the public was at a boil last spring, is echoing in the suburbs of Boston this evening. The more savvy voters realize now that real financial reform is fading. Listen closely to the pundits and “industry experts” as they talk about Obama’s “responsibility fee” on banks (proposed to recoup taxpayer investment in them). The talking heads are threatening us; banks and their representatives in Congress are sagely warning us that they will just pass the tax onto consumers; that is they will make us pay for the money WE LENT THEM TO COVER THEIR BACKSIDES LAST YEAR!
This kind of festering garbage is only possible when leadership waits before stepping to the front. The result of the leadership vacuum on financial issues is a palpable anger in the nation that left no room for a lazy candidate in Massachusetts. Most of the electorate are thinking of the brand slapped on legislation by the Republicans this year when they complain; polled on the individual elements of health reform, Americans still support them by a nearly 60%-40% gap. This reality is not the “fault” of Tea-Baggers, or Rush Limbaugh, or John Boehner. The election in the Bay State places in stark relief the differences between the two dominant parties today; Republicans are working harder, taking less for granted, and staying more focused on consistent national goals than the Democrats.
Whether I agree with those goals or not, like most Americans, I find the GOP strategy is easier to respect.
The rational middle is listening…