Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Martha and the Maguffins

It's over. Martha Coakley has conceded and Scott Brown has won the special election in Massachusetts. Every good amateur pundit needs to have an opinion or two on such things, of course. So here are mine.

  • Scott Brown ran a hell of a good campaign. He's a talented politician and he ran rings around Martha Coakley. Word is that Mitt Romney played a major role in getting Brown ready for this contest. If that is the case, it will certainly change the calculus among Republicans about Romney generally. Winning an election in Massachusetts is still a pretty good trick and if Romney has the formula to win in a state as indigo as Massachusetts, other Republicans will want it.

  • The question everyone will ask is this: is this election simply a local result, the product of a bad candidate and an inept campaign, or does it reflect on the Democrats nationally, especially the guy who sits in the Oval Office? Clearly, it's both.

  • There's no question that Martha Coakley was a spectacularly bad candidate. She was arrogant and aloof and she never seemed to understand that retail politics are part of the game. She campaigned like a divine right monarch and couldn't believe that the peasants weren't cooperating. By the time she realized she was in trouble, it was likely too late. Some portside commenters dismissed it when conservatives brought up the Curt Schilling comment, but people don't vote for politicians who seemingly don't understand their everyday concerns. That's a problem for a lot of Democrats these days. Tip O'Neill wouldn't have made that mistake. Nor would have Ted Kennedy.

  • Coakley's loss does hurt Obama, but he can recover if he figures out why it happened. I've long believed that the Democrats completely misread their mandate in 2008. The public was indeed tired of the Republican Party in 2008, but it was never clear that a majority of people were signing up for a sharp, leftward turn in our politics. Obama was a fresh, appealing face. But his appealing face was obscuring the faces of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the 60s era Democrats who have been waiting for 40 years to finish the job that LBJ started. Once the gleaming new President was inaugurated, these refugees from Madame Tussaud's thought they had the run of the place. They didn't, though. Millions of people pulled the lever for Barack Obama in 2008. Harry and Nancy? Not so much.

  • Obama now faces a choice. He gets something that his predecessor Bill Clinton did not have until after the midterm elections -- a clear warning concerning what's ahead. Clinton, ever protean, was able to change his presentation enough to commandeer the center. He also co-opted the best ideas the Republicans had on offer in 1994-1995 and by doing so took them away from Bob Dole, his opponent for reelection in 1996. It wasn't hard for Bill Clinton to do this, because the only thing that Bill Clinton really believes in is, well, Bill Clinton.

  • I think Obama is more ideological. But if Obama can wrap his mind around self-preservation, he could easily pull the same feat that Clinton did in 1996. I can see no reason why he should have any loyalty to Pelosi, Reid or much of anyone else on Capitol Hill right now. And since he's not likely to cheat on his wife, Obama could have a better second term if he figures it out. Will he? Or will he double down on jamming through his current agenda?

  • Is Obamacare dead? This much is certain -- it's in a hell of a lot of trouble. The problem with career politicians is that they are careerists first. I'm sure you can envision quite a lot of the so-called Blue Dogs seeing this result and, ahem, recalibrating their position. Do you think Blanche Lincoln would be willing to march into the bayonet? How about Evan Bayh? There are a lot of others who may have thought their seats were safe. I doubt they feel this way now.

  • Obama and his White House allies would see scrapping the current measure and starting over as a defeat. They shouldn't. It's actually an opportunity. For all the talk of bipartisanship, there was never a real sustained impetus in Congress to let Republicans participate in the crafting of the various bills that have been floating around the past year. The search was for a fig leaf -- a Joseph Cao or one of the Maine Sisters in the Senate, to provide a veneer of bipartisanship. The Democrats never seriously entertained taking a Republican bill as a basis for what they might be able to do, even though they could have done so. The one outright Big Lie the Democrats told, and they told it repeatedly, was that the Republicans didn't have any ideas on offer. If Obama is smart, he'll pick up the phone tomorrow morning and call Paul Ryan.

  • Obama has scheduled his State of the Union speech for next week. It's now probably the most crucial speech of his presidency. He will need to choose his words wisely.

  • As for Pelosi and Reid? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it sucks to be you. I'd really like to be sympathetic, but you know what? I'm not.


Brad Carlson said...

Obama has scheduled his State of the Union speech for next week.

I say Senator-elect Brown should give the GOP response!!!

Gino said...

"these refugees from Madame Tussaud's" did indeed have the run of the place. obama gave it to them.

obama care will pass if they take abortion off the table. but O is too idealogical for that.

he insists that 'choice' means everybody else pays,too.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what Goose thinks about Brown's victory?

Great commentary as usual, my friend.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing that Goose lives in a relatively low in height 2 story home. I hope that by now Mary has gotten him off of the ledge. Goose and other well intentioned people have been used by the Democratic party heads for their own devices. Patronism and Crony Capitalism do not resonate with the masses.

Any politician who has played the game of running as a centrist and voting as a liberal had better pay heed to this election. There were personality issues with the candidates to be sure, but to minimize the overall message would be suicidal for the Democrats. The public doesn't want Health Care Reform rammed down our throats in secret sessions. The public doesn't want Cap & Trade. The democrats can listen, or pay the price.

Mr. D said...


Not a bad idea. He might want to use his truck as a podium.

Gino, I suspect you're right. We can make suggestions, but will they listen? Not to a buncha teabaggers.

Anon 1, heh. And thank you.

Anon 2, I agree.

And for those of you who might wonder who this Goose fellow is -- he's a childhood friend from back home who is about as far left as they get. We're guessing our friend might just be a little crestfallen at the quick fall of his hero Barack. And it's always Barack with the Goose.

Right Hook said...

"This one's for you, Mary Jo!"
- Rush Limbaugh

Mr. D said...

Indeed, RH.