As I write this, I’m learning from my various feeds that the Associated Press has declared Scott Brown the winner in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race and, according to Alternet, citing unnamed Democratic Party sources, Martha Coakley has called Brown to concede.
This blog, and many others, have chronicled a seeming determination on the part of the Democratic Party to be irrelevant. The Party refused to stand up to Bush on myriad issues even after winning a majority of Congress in 2006. When it won the presidency, it concentrated on serving its corporate supporters and bankers who refuse to accept responsibility for their role in creating the recession, while leaving the unemployed and homeowners to twist in the wind; not only refused to pursue but sustained Bush administration criminality (UPDATE: See also Glenn Greenwald); and even seemed to convert an emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti into a military occupation, while people became increasingly desperate for food and water and mass graves were dug for the dead–undermining even the friendliest possible comparison with the notorious Depression-era President Herbert Hoover. Micah Williams wrote that
you can hardly fault us for being swept up in the “hope” and “change” whirlwind that blew through our country with Barack Obama’s presidency. Young folks from coast to coast turned out in droves to knock on doors, work phone banks, and register new voters. Even people steeped in radical politics, deeply critical of the American two-party system, got on board. Some volunteered for his campaign, a task in which they had never imagined themselves participating; others decided they would vote for him, despite taking previous positions that they would never participate in electoral politics; many put forth a sharply critical stance in public or print, but one-on-one, maybe after a few beers, admitted that his campaign’s energy was infectious, and they were doggedly attempting to evade the grasp of that excitement–to no avail.
Much was made of how the Democrats needed to win this race in order to pass their health care proposal, the one that will cost ordinary people more than they can afford for mediocre health insurance. But the real news is that progressives refused to buy into the dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans that sells them out every time. As Eugene Robinson wrote for the Washington Post,
The first [lesson the Obama administration needs to learn] is that the “enthusiasm gap” matters, and it matters a lot. There is no way that a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Massachusetts, running to fill the seat that the late Ted Kennedy held for decades, should have anything but a cakewalk to victory. It’s true that Martha Coakley ran a mediocre campaign and that Republican Scott Brown ran a very good one, but still, this is Massachusetts we’re talking about. That Obama would have to fly in two days before the vote and stump for Coakley and the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority was absurd.
Robinson is putting his finger on that Ted Kennedy was widely considered a leftist; he inherited a seat that his brother, John F. Kennedy, won in 1953, and he held it for decades. And now the Democrats have pissed it off. According to a Public Policy poll, “Brown’s voters continue to be much more enthusiastic than Coakley’s. 80% of his say they’re ‘very excited’ about voting Tuesday while only 60% of hers express that sentiment.” Also according to the poll, “Those planning to turn out continue to be skeptical of the Democratic health care plan, saying they oppose it by a 48/40 margin.”
These are not voters who have suddenly turned into Tea Partiers. According to the New York Times,
It was a sharp swing of the pendulum, but even Democratic voters said they wanted the Obama administration to change direction.
“I’m hoping that it gives a message to the country,” said Marlene Connolly, 73, of North Andover, a lifelong Democrat who said she cast her first vote for a Republican on Tuesday. “I think if Massachusetts puts Brown in, it’s a message of ‘that’s enough.’ Let’s stop the giveaways and let’s get jobs going.”
Going by party affiliation, Massachusetts favors Democrats by 34 percent. When it comes to giveaways, there are only two groups who have gotten anything out of the Obama and Bush presidencies: neoconservatives and the very wealthy.
Democrats need to decide which they want more: the money that corporations shower upon them for being in power or to even be in power to receive that money. The game is up.