On Tuesday, the people of Massachuetts found themselves at the crux of a partisan war in a special election to replace the Senate seat vacated by the untimely demise of Edward M. Kennedy. As Republican and former nude centerfold Scott Brown drove his all-American pick-up truck to electoral victory last night, he showed Martha Coakley and the rest of the nation that nothing can be assumed by political gladiators in today’s arena of legislative warfare.
Political science 101 tells us you have to at least shake hands with prospective voters. Coakley may have skipped the class where this was taught, even mocking the notion of taking her campaign to the streets. In a “blue” state which President Obama carried by 26 points when he ascended to the Oval Office a year ago, the independent electorate proved decisive in casting a referendum on the status quo, handing Brown a victory by five points in an election which lacked substantive debate on major topics.
In what should have been an easy lay-up for the fractured party of democrats, instead it meant the death of the short-lived super-majority, having lasted a mere six months and twelve days with minimal accomplishments to show for it.
The irony lies restfully with Teddy, the “liberal lion” of the Senate, having succumbed to brain cancer when he had, incidentally jeopardizing the quest for Healthcare Reform which he championed throughout his 47 years in the Senate. These election results may not only spell doom for cost controls over healthcare and insurance sectors, but for everything on the democrats’ agenda, including but not limited to immigration reform, cap-and-trade legislation, and the crucial mission to rein in Wall Street.
The national trending back toward the partisan middle-ground began a few months ago at state- and local-levels. While Pennsylvania had no major seats up for grabs, Republicans managed to take power in the gubernatorial races of New Jersey and Virginia. GOP victories occurred in PA at the appellate and superior court levels, while Arlen Specter defected ahead of this year’s Senate race, poised to lose his party’s nomination. If the DNC wants to salvage what it can of its waning majority rule, it would do well to learn from the lessons being taught by an outraged and cash-strapped American public.
As the pendulum of partisan politics swung decidedly toward the conservative right following the 9/11 attacks, the national elections of 2008 brought about a definitive rebuttal as voters insisted upon a changing of the guard. Democrats glided directly into the White House amidst a veritable partisan revolution, and the House and Senate followed suit. This gave the US a much-needed regime change from the vastly unpopular Bush-team to a super-charged Obama administration as our nation voted against an unconscionable policy doctrine, flailing wildly in the confetti of our shredded constitution.
Analysts now ponder the exit polls following Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts, how it fared for the DNC and their fledgling super-majority in Washington. What’s clear is that the so-called “Obama magic” that brought first-time voters to the polls in droves in 2008 is no longer potent enough to spare state- and local-levels the backlash of America’s Independent shift of late. Whether due to tea-party popularity, a rise in Glenn Beck’s ratings, or merely discontent for national spending amidst Obama’s recession-saving stimulus package last year, voters have spent the last few months expressing their disdain for the “direction” their country is headed.
With 2010’s mid-term elections sure to find a further rescinding of democrats in Congress, “dems” would be well-advised to apply civic fundamentals throughout campaigns across the land. Philadelphia, for example, has a majority of voters registered democrat. Galvanizing them into the landslide force which carried Obama to the White House would be an amazing feat, as independent voters continue drifting toward fiscally conservative stances amidst a continuation of Bush-era deficit spending.
Obama, in fairness, walked into a fiscal quandary of epic proportions when he assumed control of the presidency a year ago. His stimulus package, in conjunction with Bush’s bank bailouts, seemed to prevent a recession from potentially conflagrating into a drawn-out depression. States received dire assistance which seemed inevitable a year back. When state tax returns are reduced to IOU’s, the people rightfully require an explanation.
Spending our way through times of debt has been the norm under Republican administrations since WWII. Once a buoy of conservative fiscal behavior, the first president Bush took spending to an extreme, despite raising taxes after his notorious promises to the contrary. Bill Clinton brought deficits back into the “black”, only for Bush junior to squander those national gains during his post-9/11 spending-spree. The ink was still drying on the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) as Bush prepared to pass the baton to Barack.
Now, voters look to job-creation (or the lack thereof) as the litmus test for judging elected leadership. Since the unveiling of last year’s economic stimulus package, another “baby stimulus” bill has been laid upon the legislative table in hopes of correcting national unemployment numbers. This second package has been met with scornful apprehension by a distrusting public and a Republican party suddenly clinging to its origins of economic conservatism in the wake of Bush’s unpaid wars.
Grassroots organization-skills appear to be what helped Obama win the presidency last year. Scott Brown’s Senate win, backed by a tea-party movement determined to derail healthcare reform, supports this concept. Coakley’s loss, and specifically her unwillingness to wage a political battle of any meaning, proves it further.
The DNC would be well-advised to send its congressional representatives to some “party unity” seminars if they want to pass any laws between now and November. In the meantime, president Obama will need to surge the campaign troops that led to his own election victory if he wants to reduce the hemorrhaging of a wounded party of democrats.