Kish and I have watched a fair amount of cable TV news programs in the wake of the Massachusetts special election and I have been struck by the efforts to spin the election by at least some commentators. Spin, of course, almost always comes from the losing side. The winning side doesn’t really need to spin; its victory is self-evident.
The spin from the losing side, like so much else in modern politics, is based on the assumption that viewers and other American citizens are a bit dim and gullible. There is no other way to explain why people would attempt to argue that a vote for a candidate who specifically opposed the “health care reform” legislation during his campaign is nevertheless not a reflection of popular reaction to the “health care reform” legislation. There is no other reason why an otherwise experienced “political observer” would assert, with a straight face, that the proper response is for President Obama to give still more speeches about why “health care reform” is so important when he has already given dozens and dozens of speeches about that topic to no good effect.
I think the contrast between the spinning commentators and the politicians themselves is instructive. Commentators may try to convince us that a terrible loss really isn’t as bad as it seems, but any professional politician can’t afford to be delusional about such things if they want to stay elected. At the same time many commentators are urging a “double-down” on “health care reform” legislation, there seems to be no real appetite for that course in the halls of Congress itself. Their actions of Senators and Representatives, or in this case inaction, speak louder than commentators’ words.
I admit that I have enjoyed the Adolf Hitler youtube take-offs — all of which feature the same clip from a German language movie of the Nazi kingpin in the Fuhrerbunker with his remaining staff, getting bad news from the generals and then ranting as the Russians closed in. In each of the take-offs, the subtitles address a different topic, and always with a lot of humor. The first one I saw, I think, was Hitler ranting about the Dallas Cowboys unexpectedly losing a playoff game.
The latest entry is the Fuhrer fulminating about Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate seat that opened up after Ted Kennedy’s death. It is a worthy successor to a long line of Hitler videos. I am sure it has been posted all over the internet by now, but I just can’t resist.
Republican Scott Brown has been elected to the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts. Democrat Martha Coakley has conceded, thereby confirming an upset that seemed unthinkable as recently as 10 days ago. Astonishingly, only one year after President Obama swept to victory on a wave of hope and promised change, voters in one of the bluest states in the country have turned to an outsider Republican who has promised to vigorously oppose the President’s signature initiative, “health care reform” legislation. Brown will be the first Republican Senator from Massachusetts in more than 30 years. The result of this special election thus reflects one of the most abrupt changes in the political climate in many years.
I hope everyone takes a deep breath before overreacting, in one direction or another, to this result. Republicans need to realize that, at least in part, voters are angry, frustrated, and motivated by a “throw the bums out” attitude that can just as easily be directed at failed Republicans as at failed Democrats. Democrats need to realize that many Americans think the country is on the wrong track and that the amount of time and attention spent on “health care reform” legislation indicates that national Democrats have taken their eyes off the ball, when they should have been focused on jobs and the economy. With any luck, political leaders will pause to reflect before charging ahead with their respective agendas, heedless of what Americans, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, are trying to communicate.
I also predict that the reaction of the punditry and professional politicians to Brown’s victory will just stoke the simmering disgust and contempt that many Americans feel for politicians. The votes in Massachusetts had not even been counted when the backbiting and blame games began, with national Democrats pointing the finger at the Coakley campaign, the Coakley campaign blaming the Democratic National Committee, and so on. The unseemly exercise in immediate finger-pointing just seems to confirm what many Americans suspect — that the political classes are untrustworthy, unprincipled, and ready to sacrifice anyone and blame anyone to save their own skins and their own reputations. Coakley ran a campaign and lost; now, for those who are trying to spin the election campaigns as having no national message, she gets savaged as an inept loser who is solely responsible for an historic defeat. With this kind of backstabbing from members of your own party, why would anyone want to get into politics?
The attention being paid to the special election to elect a Massachusetts Senator to succeed Ted Kennedy seems to be growing, and the signs point to a national Democratic party that is very worried. President Obama, for example, has announced that he will go to Massachusetts tomorrow to campaign for the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley. Whether that will help or not seems to be debatable — the polls indicate that many potential voters are opposed to the President’s “health care reform” proposals, and independent voters seem to be hearing Republican Scott Brown’s call that a vote for him will stop “health care reform” and send a clear message that lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are on the wrong track. This article summarizes the race and provides a bit of useful information on the political winds, and the electorate, in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts contest is interesting because it is so surprising. Here in the swing state Midwest, Massachusetts is viewed as the bluest of the blue states. It is hard to imagine that Brown really can win — particularly if the Democrats pull out all of the “get out the vote” stops on Election Day. If Brown nevertheless pulls off a victory, it will be an upset for the ages that undoubtedly will send significant shock waves to members of Congress who are up for election in November.
Massachusetts is holding a special election to select a successor to Ted Kennedy. To the surprise of many, the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, appears to have made a competitive race in a traditional Democratic state — one that has not had a Republican Senator since 1972.
Last night, Brown, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, and a third-party candidate named Kennedy had their final debate of the campaign and evidently had a spirited exchange of views on a number of topics, including the “health care reform” legislation. The debate moderator, pundit David Gergen, asked Brown about how he could vote against health care reform if he sat in Ted Kennedy’s seat. Brown responded: “Well, with all due respect it’s not the Kennedy seat, it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.” A report on the debate is here.
It is hard to believe that the political climate has changed to the point that a Republican could be elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, but at last one poll showed Brown leading by a percentage point. (Another poll, which used a different turnout model, showed Coakley comfortably ahead.) A lot of people will be closely watching Massachusetts next Tuesday.