Massachusetts’ Senate Election – A Beacon for the Democratic Party


A great deal of Massachusetts’ history is tied to the sea. Because of this, Massachusetts is also known for its lighthouses. Lighthouses were once the trusted tool that guided navigators through treacherous waters, enabling them to avoid running aground on coastal rocks. Like a lighthouse, the election to fill the US Senate seat from Massachusetts should serve as a beacon to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama administration.

As Democrats navigate through these treacherous and rocky political waters, the election of Scott Brown as the senator to replace Ted Kennedy should serve as a warning to the DNC of the dangers of arrogance, complacency and disorganization. It should also serve notice to the Obama administration of the dangers of failing to articulate a consistent message and failing to deliver what was promised to your supporters.

  • First, the DNC should recognize that Scott Brown did not run a great campaign insomuch as Martha Coakley, like Cree Deeds in Virginia, ran a terrible one. Coakley ran an elitist campaign, failing to reach out to the communities that helped to elect Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and President Obama. According to the Boston Globe, “The lapses were particularly noticeable in minority communities, traditionally bastions of Democratic votes, which did not turn out in high numbers …” As a demonstration of her arrogance, Coakley took a week off and vacationed during the campaign. According to The Hill, “Martha Coakley’s New Year’s vacation may reign as one of the costliest political blunders of all time.” Even if you’ve “got it in the bag,” you never leave the bag unattended!
  • Second, President Obama’s failure to rally the troops for Coakley in Massachusetts, Cree Deeds in Virginia and Jon Corzine in New Jersey is not as much of a repudiation of President Obama and his agenda as Sen. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans would have us believe. It’s more of a statement about Obama’s base refusing to respond to his clarion call due to his failure to deliver on his campaign promises.

Republicans, political pundits and even some Democrats are misinterpreting and misrepresenting Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts as a rejection of President Obama’s agenda and expecting this to reverberate throughout the country. Mitch McConnell has mistakenly said, “This was in many ways a national referendum principally on the major issue we’re wrestling with here in the Congress, which is whether or not the government should take over one-sixth of our economy, slash Medicare by a half-trillion dollars, raise taxes by a half-trillion dollars and drive insurance rates up for most of the rest of our country …”

Actually, according to a Research 2000 poll commissioned by Democracy for America, MoveOn and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, respondents said if Democrats enact tougher policies on Wall Street, they’ll be more likely to come back to the party in the next election. The poll also provides some clarity on the role that health care played in the election.

The poll reveals people who switched from Obama to Brown (48 percent) – or didn’t vote (43 percent) said they opposed the Senate health care bill. But when asked why they opposed it, among Brown voters who switched, only 23 percent thought it went “too far” – but 36 percent thought it didn’t go far enough and 41 percent said they weren’t sure why they opposed it.

Obama supporters who decided to stay home were asked a three-part question.

Do you think Democrats in Washington, DC:

1. Are fighting hard enough to challenge the Republican policies of the Bush years?

2. Aren’t fighting hard enough to change those policies?

3. Are fighting about right?

The poll showed 39 percent said “not enough,” 25 percent said “about right,” while only 12 percent believe Democrats have been too ambitious.

The president said publicly on July 7, 2009, “I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health-care reform …, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices and ensure quality is a public option …” Then in October, according to the Huffington Post, “Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.” The perception is he rolled over on the public option before the fight even started.

In terms of unemployment, the administration has made tremendous progress on slowing the rate of job loss, but has yet to turn the corner on job creation. The simple equation is: jobs created equals votes cast.

The president supported and implemented a bailout for the banks, but has failed to bail out the American homeowner. At the same time that banks are recording record profits and paying out record bonuses, they have failed to increase lending to small businesses (the real engine of this economy), raised interest rates for consumer credit, and continue to foreclose on people’s homes. That is not the “change” Americans voted for.

The DNC should see the beacon of light from Massachusetts and head the warning. Quality candidates running quality campaigns are what win elections.

The recent election in Massachusetts is not a national referendum or a repudiation of the Obama agenda. It’s a repudiation of President Obama’s failure to stand by the “change” he promised the American people; his failure to fight for “change” and his seeming inability to deliver.

During the election campaign, candidate Obama borrowed from Dr. King when he reminded us of “the fierce urgency of now!” Now is the time for President Obama to once again look to Dr. King and heed his warning that, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Now is the time to deliver what you promised.

The Obama administration needs to follow the beacon and heed its warnings. The majority of Americans do not want the country to go backwards as Senators McConnell, Graham and Lieberman want to take it. Americans want to move forward and are looking for the president to fulfill his campaign promises by navigating these rocky political waters and safely delivering the country ashore.