Upset In Massachusetts

The nation’s political eyes were sharply focused on the state of Massachusetts yesterday, as the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated with the passing of Democratic senator Ted Kennedy took place there.  And when the dust had cleared, we were witness to one of the biggest upsets in recent political history, as Republican state senator Scott Brown emerged victorious over the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley.

How monumental was the victory by Brown on Tuesday?  In one of the most liberal states in the Union, a Republican won an election for a  Senate seat for the first time since Edward Brooke (whose own claim to history is in being the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the 20th century) in 1972.  Brown’s victory was shocking in not just that it happened, but its manner — the state senator trailed Coakley by as much as a whopping 20 points in the polls at one point in early December, but by earlier this month had pulled into a dead heat, even nudging ahead in some tracking polls.  Six months ago, the likelihood of Brown beating Coakley would have been about as likely as the Fenway faithful embracing A-Rod — but yet this morning, here it is.

I'm so upset by Coakley's loss, I have amnesia about events that took place before 2009

So what does this stunning result actually mean?  You can ignore a number of the pundits I saw on both MSNBC and Fox News last night, as most of the opinions they voiced were nothing more than political spin.  Unlike the ridiculous implication by MSNBC talk host Rachel Maddow that Coakley lost because the people of Massachusetts aren’t comfortable with voting for a woman to such a high office — this in direct ignorance of the fact that Hillary Clinton, and not Barack Obama, comfortably won the Massachusetts primary for president in 2008 — or the overreaching opinions of Fox’s new “political consultant” Sarah Palin, whose own implications were that Brown’s victory was the bellweather of a huge movement that will put the Republican party back in power in November, the truth is somewhere in the middle and far more muddied than either of these own biased examples would have you believe.

According to exit polls, the top issue for the election in Massachusetts was, not surprisingly, health care reform.  What was lost in Brown’s victory was the fact that Massachusetts has a form of state-run health care already, passed through the state House and Senate in 2005 and signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney in 2006.  It’s entirely possible that the vote for Brown was not one against the health care reform currently being debated by Congress, but rather a rejection by Massachusetts voters for paying more for something they already have themselves.

That said, the Democratic party would be foolish to ignore the implications of Brown’s upset and ignore that the mood in the country hasn’t dramatically worsened in the past calendar year, and that the faith of the American people in the government in Washington getting it right when it comes to health care — or much of anything else, for that matter — is lower than perhaps it’s ever been.  There’s a growing belief around the country that the current health care system being pushed through won’t do anything to stop the ridiculously rising costs for basic services in this country, that it wont do anything to reign in the avarice and excesses being enjoyed by the nation’s insurers and pharmaceutical companies (both of which have been in bed with Congress on this reform from nearly the beginning), and that it will still leave millions of people uninsured or with coverage that’s lacking — even while driving up what the average citizen pays and driving up the national deficit even beyond the dangerous levels it’s already at.

Not pictured -- A Yankee fan

If Brown’s election signifies anything, it’s that the voting populace may be ready to revolt against any candidate, Republican or Democrat — that appears to them to be part of the broken status quo in Washington.  While by most accounts,  Coakley ran a poor campaign with numerous verbal gaffes — the one if which she referred to Boston Red Sox legend Curt Schilling as a “Yankee fan” (Lesson one: know your Red Sox legends if you’re planning to run for office in Massachusetts) being one of the more notable ones — her biggest mistake had been in not correcting or changing the perception that she would be yet another Washington insider, prepared to continue the status quo in the nation’s capital.

The most damning effort to her chances may have been her last fundraiser, which Brown would hammer her on in ads in the campaigns final days.  While Brown and Coakley both were in need of last-minute funds for their campaigns, Coakley raised her money in an event that took place in the heart of our nation’s problems — Washington — and it was an event at which no less that 17 of the 22 hosts (people who coughed up $10,000 or more for Coakley’s election bid) were paid lobbyists, 15 of them for the people who certainly don’t want to see a meaningful health care reform package — one that aids the polpulace and not their own interests — passed.  Fifteen lobbyists with ties to all of the major pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Merck, and others) and ties to all of the major insurance companies as well (Blue Cross, Aetna, and others) — is there any doubt as to what kind of health care reform these businesses want to see — and that it’s us, the average American — who’ll be coming up with the short straw if it’s passed?  This fundraiser may have been Coakley’s nail-in-the-coffin, as it seemed to represent the “business-as-usual” attitude that people in this country have hopefully begun to tire of.  (A larger scan of that group of Washington insiders on the right found here.)

So will this be a precursor of more upsets to come in the elections that will take place this fall?  A lot of that depends on the recovery of the U.S. economy, as well as the attitude by the current Congress in the upcoming months.  I’ll state that the largest issue facing us currently — and the issue that is becoming more and more of a primary concern to larger numbers of Americans — is our out-of-control spending and the increasing national deficit.  After President Clinton left office, spending in relation to revenues collected has spiraled out of control, first under Republican leadership and the Bush White House, now under Democratic leadership and the Obama White House — so this isn’t a partisan issue.  Both parties have continued to be irresponsible with our nation’s future in more ways than be counted — Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts for the insanely rich, bloated programs that are funded to buy votes of special interest groups — all of these are examples of our political leaders on both sides of the aisle putting the interests of their friends and financial supporters (and in turn, their own re-elections) ahead of what’s right for the country.

Hopefully, Brown’s election will be the first step in a real change being enacted in Washington; however, that’s something we’ve all heard before — and so far, it’s rarely been more than lip service from those getting elected.  Time will tell if this turns out to be more of the same.

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One Response to “Upset In Massachusetts”

  1. […] Last night was President Obama’s State of the Union Speech, only a week after the upset Republican win in Massachusetts.  There was a great deal of intrigue as to how much that shocking loss for the Democrats would […]

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