Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Political Notebook: The Vote In Massachusetts and Beyond

It's pretty easy given the current rancorous warfare between Republicans and Democrats to declare that a change to a Republican senator in Massachusetts is a world-changing event, or that it spells out doom for the political goals of the Obama administration.

But I think the reasons are less about Obama and are more easily understandable.

The state of Mass. has, for the first time in over 50 years, elected someone outside the Kennedy family. Since JFK took the senate seat in 1953, it has belonged to a Kennedy (or a Kennedy appointee). So it isn't very surprising and it doesn't hold a secret meaning that the Democrats lost control of the seat - especially since the rest of their entire delegation to Congress are all Democrats.

Both JFK and Ted Kennedy (who served for 46 years) certainly held enormous political clout. And given that the Democrat candidate Martha Coakley who lost in 2010 wasn't very popular, or that women in general seldom are elected in Mass., it boggles the mind to consider her loss some sort of litmus test on Obama. (Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is an exception and she took the job when her husband Paul died.)

Does the loss rattle the Democrats and cheer the Republicans? You betcha. And as Steve Benen writes, there are some key lessons to be learned.

If I were a real pessimist, I would fear that the all-white, all-wealthy panel speaking this week on MSNBC's Morning Joe show might hold some truth: that Mass. Senate winner "looks more American". But when I listen to them and read their words, it evokes some some disgust:

Donny Deutsch got the ball rolling, suggesting that voters may be "going back to basics" after electing an African-American president and seeing "the female candidates and whatnot." Scott Brown, Deutsch added, "looks like the traditional view of a candidate," which may bring a "visceral comfort" to voters.

Mike Barnicle found value in the observation, saying that "there's something to it."

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan added that Brown is "a regular guy" who "looks like an American."

None of all-white participants in this discussion explained exactly what "an American" actually "looks like," but apparently it has something to do with being white, male, and handsome. Sorry, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, I guess you don't meet the criteria for looking American.

This is, of course, the same program that told us some months ago that "real Americans" like Sarah Palin and don't live in cities.

Tell me again, media establishment, about how MSNBC is a liberal bastion that's shifted to the left, on par with Fox News being a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party."


  1. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Cup of Joe Powell says: "Tell me again, media establishment, about how MSNBC is a liberal bastion that's shifted to the left, on par with Fox News being a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party."

    Let me help you with that. On MSNBC last night, Keith Olbermann said (actually ranted) about Scott Brown, "In Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians he disagrees..."

    Of course, this may simply be mainstream thought provoking cool political analysis, but evidently the Commonwealth of Massachsettes disagrees.

  2. the quote you mention is from the post written by Steve Benen, not me. that's why it is in a different typeface and is highlighted. i simply pointed readers to Benen's view.

  3. OXYMORON9:22 PM

    Olbermann is probably right and since this election is a major propaganda crossroads upcoming elections, I can guarantee you there was much more going into this special election than just the opinions of the people of Mass.

    I wish I could get anon's snooty, droll, superior, elitist prose style down for my posts on blogs.

  4. Anonymous3:18 PM

    Oxy, you are right and you are wrong. It was more about the opinions of the people of Massachusettes. Go to the cliff and look to the bottom where the health care jauggernaut now rests.

    However, it was the opinions of the people of Massachusettes, the 1.9 million whose opinion that Scott Brown should be their US Senator.

    And while this blog is a regular castigator of Fox News and their ilk as being nothing more than a wing of the GOP, it would be pleasant to see it balanced on occasion by identifying Mr. Olbermann as being nothing more than a tail bone of the Democratic Party.

    Then we would know that this blog, unlike MSNBC (to hear the blog say) would not have shifted to the left.

  5. Anonymous3:21 PM

    Sorry, cup of joe - pass along my comment to Steve Benen when he awakens from the coma of stupor that he is evidently in.

  6. OXYMORON5:52 PM

    Tell me Anon how is it that In the past year, particulary in the past 6 months, I have heard so many "conservatives" hold forth with their expressed opinions on a host of matters: the Health Care Reform, the economy, the deficit, et. cetera. On what basis do they base their expertise?

    Beginning with the deregulation of the S&L's and their subsequent bailouts under Reagan- Bush, the Iraq war 1.0 and the recession following. The fiscal policies under Dubya, the Regulatory policies under Dubya, the 9/11 terrorist attacks under Dubya By 15 Saudi's and the Dubya response of attacking a country called Iraq, another war that has forseeable denouement
    Almost no response of the destruction of a major city.
    Response to a financial collapse that was well underway a year before and in total free fall six months before a Republican Secretary of the Treasury squealed "Give me 700 billlion dollars now, fuck the check I need cash" .
    And you want to cast around opinions like your expertise is reality based rather than you bleating like a sock puppet who is happy because it comes with the sensation of being fisted by someone who makes you feel a part of the "right" party?

    How does the opinion of less than one per cent of Americans in Mass who voted in a special election somehow reflect America entirely when we know no real Americans live above in Mason Dixon line?Mass has its own public health plan (created by Repub Mitt Romney) so I am sceptical that they don't want a public health plan.

    John Stuart Mill said it best """I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.""

  7. Anonymous6:06 PM

    Oxy, the more incensed you become, the less literate you seem.

    Massachusettes reflects a public sentiment not about health care reform, but about the health care "reform" the Democrats in Congress were formulating. The public was steamed over special perks given to Ben Nelson, for example. And the last straw was the five year exemption union executives got from the Cadillac health care tax that 93% of the private American workforce did not.

    Oxy, Massachusettes is already paying for one health plan. They do not want to pay for another.

    However, you can deny there was no national meaning to a simple election held in a state that you deem unimportant.

    But, in so doing, you and all your fellow "progressives" continue to resemble the Platte River of Nebraska in that you are "a mile wide and an inch deep".

    >>>That is my quote as unlike progressives, I have an original thought or two;).

  8. like i said, i see Brown's election as more a long-awaited change to someone other than a Kennedy or a Democrat to hold that particular office.

    the pundits who claim off-year special elections are a national referendum on President Obama want to make it more important than it is.

    Olbermann is too strident for my taste. the best political show on television these days belongs to Rachel Maddow. unlike Fox or others on MSNBC, she reports news and does not regurgitate memos from party officials. she often points out that the real problems in American politics come from the screeches of spin from the two parties which long, long ago quit being representatives of the people and are instead the lap dogs of mega corporations and party bosses.

  9. I agree that more will be made of this election than should be, but this is the world that we have created. The one person who will not waste an inordinate amount of time on this is Obama who rolled off this punch and came out swinging at the banks.

    The health reform that is taking place is unfortunately only a shell of the discussion that needs to take place and the ridiculous compromises made to keep the bill alive are in many ways a result of the republicans being joined at the hip. It seems to me that the strength of the republic is the compromises that take place between polar views and when one polar view join together to become obstructionists the republic does not get much done. Brown wins partly because people are sick of not much getting done other than a few soundbites for the talking heads on the all too many T.V. channels.

    Today I went to the post office and received excellent service and even had an in depth discussion on the pros and cons of junk mail. I then went to my doctors office to make an appointment and got the runaround. I had to control my anger when asked questions in person that I had just filled out on a piece of paper.

    The point is that just because something is run by the government does not mean that it will always do a terribly inefficient job. I have worked in private manufacturing most of my life, even exporting to China, and we are always struggling with inefficiency. The problem with the government running things are the citizens that try and take advantage of a system set up to do the public good.

    If you think this post is a rambling incoherent bullet point. Think for a moment what the last year would have been like with McCain/Palin at the helm. Bring a smile to your face?

  10. well said David.

    and i actually feel quite proud to know that most Americans easily dismiss the likes of McCain and especially Palin. she is a celeb, no doubt, but most of us know she's the last person we want in charge of anything larger than a small town in Alaska.