Now that the Massachusetts US Senate Special Election is over with a win by Republican Scott Brown, many in the news biz will start to pontificate over why it happened and what it means for the future. Before they do, here is my take.
"First rule of leadership: everything is your fault. It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, Princess. One of those "circle of life" kind of things." – Hopper, Bugs Life
Having been a candidate, I can say that the responsibility for any failure in the campaign is the fault of the candidate.
That Coakley waited about a month after the primary to get her general election campaign going doesn't help. Going negative before you put out enough (any?) ads defining who you are, and why you are the better candidate, turns off voters. In contrast, Brown created his "man of the people" schick early, kept at it and let the PACs and 527s do the attack ads. The Democrat's GOTV effort helped, but clearly not enough.
President Obama and the Congressional Democrats played a part in Coakley's failure, though. As Paul Krugman points out in his latest column:
- the economic stimulus was too small and became confused with the Wall Street bailout,
- the Dems have rolled over to Wall Street & the banks, and
- Obama, unlike Reagan, has let the state of the economy become his problem, rather than blaming it on Bush the Lesser. After all, Bush presided over two recessions, incredibly poor jobs growth and a continuing massive shift in wealth and income to the rich.
"That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life! Ah-ha-ha-ha!" – Queen, Bugs Life
It has amazed me that Obama & The Dems, with the presidency and significant if not overwhelming control of the congress, have not accomplished more. Their biggest accomplishment seems to have continued Bush's blank check to Wall Street. Most of the major banks were insolvent (and likely are still now), but rather than take them over, clean and break them up, Obama & the federal reserve have given them massive financial support (via the Fed, AIG, TARP, etc.) and let them continue to limp along ala Japan's zombie banks while paying out huge bonuses to the people who tanked the economy.
Given a tremendous opportunity to be bold and reshape the economy for the better, Obama installed Summers, Geithner and others to kow tow to Wall Street. The Republicans, out of power, resisted with all their might anything Obama wanted unless it helped Wall Street, the rich or our occupation of other countries. They were pretty good at their resistance since Obama gave away some of the store on health care and the stimulus in a misguided attempt to be bi-partisan. SNL summed up their seeming position well with "The Rock Obama" skit when Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says: "It's not that we want health care to fail, we don't. We just want you to fail."
Based on their track record, the Democrats may use this set back as an excuse to cut back on any policies that are to the left of the Republicans, since the Republicans are standing in their way
"You're wrong, Hopper. Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers. I've
seen these ants do great things, and year after year, they somehow
manage to pick enough food for themselves and you. So-so who's the weaker species? Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you say we are. And you know it, don't you?" – Flik, Bugs Life
There is an alternative, of course. Obama and The Dems could chart a bold course to rein in Wall Street, deal with our foreclosure crisis in a way that helps people and not the banks, and use the House-Senate reconciliation process to pass a stronger health care plan that isn't a give away to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. They will get push back from the Republicans, but if they define the terms of the debate and actually get some policies that help people passed, they will succeed.
I am not holding my breath.