Red Mass?

Red Mass?

The nature of modern American politics has been off-the-wall weird for a dozen years now. We’ve seen a president impeached for lying about sex. We’ve seen another president who was selected instead of elected in an orgiastic festival of Florida and federal fraud. We saw an administration use the darkest day in our history as an excuse to scare us, spy on us, steal from us and start false wars in our name. We’ve seen a vice president go on national television and advocate the benefits and blessings of torture. We came within an eyelash of seeing the first woman president elected in this still-misogynist nation, and did see the first African-American president elected in this still-racist nation.

Those are just the big-ticket items. It is almost impossible to quantify the political mayhem that has broken loose during the last several years, and after all of it, you start to think that maybe you’ve seen it all. How much more deranged can it really get?

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Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, “Red Mass?”:

Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, “Red Mass?”:


The open US Senate seat for Massachusetts, held since 1962 by the late liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy, could be filled on Tuesday by an outrageously hard-right Republican named Scott Brown if the voting breaks his way.


A seat that has been in Democratic hands since God was in short pants could flip to the GOP after the special election to fill Kennedy’s vacant seat takes place next week. Not to some sanded-down version of a Republican, mind you, but a real rock-ribbed fire-breathing right winger. GOP candidate Scott Brown enthusiastically endorses the use of torture, is anti-choice, against stem cell research, and once sponsored an amendment that would have let emergency room workers turn away rape victims if said workers had religious objections to giving those victims emergency contraception should they request it.

This guy – this guy – could take Teddy Kennedy’s seat. That a man like this is even within shouting distance of winning a true-blue Massachusetts Senate seat is eloquent proof that the world has, indeed, gone completely barking mad.

It’s not a done deal, of course, but the numbers are all over the place; Brown’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley, leads him by 20 points in some polls and is tied with him in others. Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-1 in the state, but Independents outnumber them both, and if the much-ballyhooed-in-the-media Democratic loss of support by Independent voters has any validity to it, anything could happen. Add to that the fact that voter turnout in off-November elections is historically low – Coakley and Brown won their respective primaries after almost nobody showed up to cast a ballot – and that Republican and conservative enthusiasm is incredibly high.

As the weekend before the election approached, televisions all across Massachusetts detonated with newly-crafted negative ads, while conservative and liberal political groups parachuted into the state to help the respective candidates. “With a crucial 60th vote in the Senate at stake,” The New York Times on Thursday, “the perceived tightening has sent Democratic operatives scrambling to Massachusetts to help the Coakley campaign and has prompted groups on both sides of the aisle to bombard the state with advertising. Ms. Coakley forcefully attacked Mr. Brown this week, an unusual step for a front-runner, painting him as an acolyte of former President George W. Bush who is out of touch with the state’s values.”

It could happen. It really, really could.

I don’t give a great deal of credence to the doom-and-gloom predictions for the Democrats’ electoral chances in 2010. While the Congressional majority have not covered themselves in glory by any means, and our new president has definitely seen his approval ratings slip across the board, the fact remains that the GOP remains in far worse shape. The calamities of Republican rule are still too fresh in mind for people to turn on a dime and embrace their madness again. Their Congressional fundraising is way off the Democratic pace. Finally, the new “Tea Party” wing of the GOP has only just begun tearing the party apart in its quest for ideological purity.

But if Ted Kennedy’s seat is in play, in deeply Democratic Massachusetts, anything is possible, and I might have to rethink my incredulity. Tuesday will definitely be interesting.