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Why Martha Coakley lost

US Democrats lose Massachusetts – and the Senate

By Daniel Patrick Welch | 20 January 2010

I’m sick of waiting for the post-election analysis where bobbling heads pick over the bones of what they already knew to look like sages. Or maybe I’m just lazy. In any event, call this a pre-mortem, or the audacity of losing a sure bet – something like that.

Yes, the polls are still open. But the potential – or as some might dare say (me!) impending – loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat to a faux populist republican nude model is so egregious, so telling, and so, well, inevitable, that it justifies jumping the gun just a bit.

What went wrong? What didn’t go wrong? The Democratic Pary is so convinced of its rightful place at what it likes to peg as the centre-left of the US electorate that it is completely tone deaf, out of touch, and self-congratulatory in its assumptions that its once core constituencies will follow it into the dustbin of history.

The most obvious and forgivable mistake was to assume – with complete historical justification – that the race was a foregone conclusion and that the real media show was in the Democratic primary. However reasonable, this assumption played neatly into the hands of a clever and well-tuned opposition, who were able to portray Democratic candidate Martha Coakley as thinking she deserved the seat, like it was some unwritten codicil in Teddy’s will.

Friends of Martha will protest, but no matter. The real problems started to mount when this effect began to snowball. Undeserved leadership is something of a sore spot for jilted voters who have realized with a vengeance that their love for the Democrats is unrequited. A party that seems unable either to oppose in opposition nor lead when in power is one that shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches, as long as there are any adults around to stop them.

This leads to the second huge mistake. The local party machine, knowing they were in serious trouble, appealed to the national machine to bring in the cavalry. Big mistake. Obama’s coattails are flapping somewhere around his shoulder blades, and the reputation of congressional Democrats is even worse. It’s possible that Democratic strategists simply can’t believe that there could have been such a massive shift in so little time, and that Barry the Rock Star with the mellifluous voice can still be counted on to turn them out.

People are pissed off. There really isn’t much more to it than that. And the more you try to schmooze them into believing things are better when they’re not, the more they will turn on you. Judas said it best (or at least Anthony Lloyd Weber): “You have set them all on fire/ They think they’ve found the new messiah/ And they’ll hurt you when they think you’ve lied.”

Don’t get me wrong: Scott Brown is a Republican, and maybe the continuous reiteration of that fact will hit home with Massachusetts voters at the last minute, helping Democrats to tap the almost overwhelming advantage they enjoy in the state. But the national party has quickly allowed itself to be something other than what voters wanted in 2008; if you can’t live up to expectations, you can’t take loyalty for granted.

Obama’s handlers in particular seem unaware of the anger seething at the grassroots. People are hurting, they are scared, they are angry, and Obama’s cool customer routine has worn thin fast. It doesn’t take a year to figure out that the same neo-liberal crap won’t work, and it doesn’t help that he has kept on some of the same flunkies, signed on to the same domestic as well as foreign policies, and just plain been too cautious even in a symbolic way. It wouldn’t surprise me if the last straw for some voters was Obama’s recent appointment of George W. Bush to help head up the Haiti relief effort.

But back to Massachusetts and Martha Coakley. As a lifelong resident, I am well aware that the Massachusetts “solution” to health care is not the wildly popular programme the elites like to make it seem. Obama, in fact, nailed it dead on when campaigning here in the primary in 2008: “Somehow I find it hard to believe that poor people don’t have health insurance simply because no one has yet forced them to buy it.” And yet it is exactly this wildly unpopular concept that has been woven into the industry-approved health insurance bailout now bubbling on Congress’ front burner. My wife and I pay 10,000 dollars a year for insurance just for the two of us – and that is not at all uncommon. They may not run in power circles, but many people I know pay the fines instead of buying the insurance – they have no choice.

Working people, poor people, are very, very angry – and they simply don’t see saving this lousy legislation as a reason to go to the polls on a snowy day in January. As far as the grassroots progressives, whose vaunted people power supposedly catapulted Obama into office? Though they lapped up his best seller, audacity of hope, they are not lining up for pre-orders on the sequel, the audacity of bombing the crap out of everyone for their own damn good. Democrats have stupidly squandered an incredible opportunity. The populist anger is still very real, but they have ceded it to the right in one of the worst performances in modern politically history. If they want to save their party, they had better take a much more radical turn – and fast. History doesn’t wait.

© 2010 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Source

January 19, 2010 - Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite

1 Comment

  1. It is not pleasant to stand by and watch a suicide, unable to do anything to stop it. That’s how I feel about the Democrats AND the Republicans, who are nothing but the left and right wings respectively of the War Party. While I see right wing bloggers call Obama a left wing Marxist, the reality is that the corporations, under BOTH the Republican and Democrats, have gotten MORE than they dreamed to ask for. Mr and Mrs America and the 2 1/2 kids? They got the shaft. It reads more like Mussolini than Marx to me.
    Roosevelt’s reforms prevented revolution, and as the tent city Bushvilles spring up on the edge of the cities and as the economy spirals down the drain on a flood of fiat currency, ruining people indiscrimately, and as war-damaged veterans who can’t get the help they need run amok committing acts of random violence… how far away is the breaking point?
    This ‘wealth care’ giveaway to the insurance companies is the next to the last straw. It will take a while for the enormity of this travesty to strike home. When it does, look for backlash.
    Congress critturs get blue ribbon top shelf health coverage. Too bad the same plan is not available to the rest of us.
    Medicare for all – all in, none out – is the easiest plan to inaugurate, would still leave insurance companies a role in the coverage needed to fill Medicare Gap. It would be a big step in the direction of joining the rest of the world in the realization that the health of the population is a major asset to the country, and an attraction to industries and companies that want to avoid this expense.
    But no. Big Pharma and Big Insurance and Big Doctor Business call the tune, and WE must pay the piper. Go volunteer at your local hospital. You will see how the doctor examines the patient’s chart. On the left side is the patient data. On the right side is a list of what will be covered by insurance. The doctor looks there first and bases treatment on what is covered rather than on what will best benefit the patient. Such is ‘health care’ in the USA. Is that what Congress wants to perpetrate and reinforce with this sham ‘health care’ bill in which medical protocol is dictated by the needs of industry bottom lines? Cuba, despite 50 years of US blockade (an act of war, by the way) and many problems, still gives complete medical coverage to all. Something the US is unable to do.
    Guess we gave most of the money to the banksters and corporados and blew the rest on phony ‘stimulus’ programs. Too bad, Mr. and Mrs America. Here is your tent and a threadbare sleeping bag for each of you. Welcome to Bushville.


    Comment by Cosh | January 20, 2010

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