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."