Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thoughts on the "day after"

  • First off, everyone step away from the panic button. Just because the Democrats lost this special election doesn't mean that the entire agenda gets junked. Nor does it mean that we slap together a pile of cr-p, call it "health care reform" and pass it before Brown gets there (edit: or pass the crap that is the Senate bill through the House without even thinking). A morass that insists all Americans must funnel cash to a private industry is not going to help any Democrat on the campaign trail this summer and fall. Don't read too many implications into this odd election -- the last law passed in the midst of blind panic was the Patriot Act. Whoops.

  • Politically, it's better to fail spectacularly at Republicans hands than fail incrementally with Democratic help. In policy terms, the best thing is for Reid to grow a pair, as he'll likely lose his re-election anyway. He may as well go out as the Senator who implemented real health care reform after junking the filibuster. Seriously -- if there's a legislative chamber that requires a 60% supermajority on all laws (as the Senate has over the last few years, suddenly) anywhere in the Western world, I've not heard of it. Nuke it.

  • Moving on, there's plenty of blame for this loss to go around. Coakley, having forgotten about people like Weld and Romney, apparently felt that she didn't really need to earn anyone's vote in Massachusetts. Even the greats, Kennedy and Kerry, hustled against Romney and Weld for hard-won victories. She disappeared, and not just around Christmas but for several days in either direction.

  • But it wasn't just her -- if you see your candidate screwing up, you're supposed to do something about it, I thought. There are people whose job it is to tell candidates to get over themselves and hustle for votes, often called the party "elders". They were snoozing as deep as Martha, whether it was the staties in Charlestown or the muckymucks in DC. Would it have killed them all for someone -- someone! -- to take a poll? At the end, Coakley owns the loss because her name was on the ballot, but Democrats who should know better were as complacent as her.

  • Anyway, it's not all the Dems' fault. Brown came up with clever ads, got the help he needed across the state and nation, won every news cycle going away, courted the media smartly, interrupted any Coakley narrative, held his ground in the debates, and worked for the vote. You can be a Democrat with a sucky campaign and win -- just ask John Kerry after his victory over Beatty. Coakley gave Brown oxygen, and he used it in a way that connected with the electorate. Any Democrat who denies this is going to be caught unprepared as well.

  • The electorate didn't change its mind from 2008...the electorate itself changed. People who would have helped Coakley in a regular election didn't vote -- turnout was under 40% in major cities. This gives me hope for 2012, but expecting the Democratic base to show up without being told why is a fool's game, as we saw last night. This to me is the grand lesson about preparing for November, and how to handle the agenda going forward.

  • As to who takes on Brown in 2012, we'll have to wait and see. Here's what I expect: census indicates that some Congressperson must lose his/her seat. After some semi-public negotiation, one of them announces a run for Senate, and allows his/her seat to be re-districted out of existence out from under him/her.

1 comment:

noternie said...

100% spot on. I agree totally with it all.

Would only add that the message needs to be honed and sold much, much harder.