Liddick: What the Mass. Senate race says about the coming election
My, my. Whatever shall we discuss this week? I know … How about Senator-elect Scott Brown and the state of Massachusetts?
Let’s begin by noting that what happened a week ago in the Bay State wasn’t a referendum on Barack Obama. People still like him. Personally, he has high numbers. It’s just his policies that folks find distasteful. Fifty-five percent of the electorate think the country is “going in the wrong direction,” and it seems that voters from Pittsfield to Provincetown agree.
Health care wasn’t the only point of contention. Sen. Brown also hit national security hard, as he should have, following the Christmas underwear bomber debacle. And there was discussion about the jobless recovery, a year after the president demanded Congress pass a $787 billion stimulus bill to prevent the unemployment rate from rising over 8 percent. It’s 9.4 percent in Massachusetts today, for those who follow these things. But most important was the role played by attitude.
Martha Coakley, the Democrat candidate, ran as though it was a coronation, not a campaign – and most Democrats agreed. After all, Massachusetts was the bluest of blue states, and she was running for the “Kennedy seat.” She was a shoo-in. Everyone thought so, even David Gergen, ex-Clintonista and moderator for the final Coakley-Brown debate. “Can you sit in Ted Kennedy’s seat,” he asked candidate Brown, “and vote against health care?” When Mr. Brown reminded him that the Senate seat belonged not to the Kennedy family, but to the people of Massachusetts, he very probably won the election. In this country, we have a long-standing distaste for hereditary offices – despite the fervently expressed desires of Democrats.
Then there was the attitude of the Democrat-controlled Congress, which was crucially helpful to Senator-elect Brown.
It’s clear from statements made during the campaign that when Democrat leadership decided to ram health care through the Congress without consideration or consultation with the opposition, they went a long way toward losing the election in Massachusetts. It’s equally clear that when they engaged in the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback; when they slammed the doors on the public to prevent knowledge of the backroom bartering, corrupt compromises and distasteful dealing from spreading too far; when they pursued a damn-the-torpedoes approach to bringing the whole slapped-together package to a vote regardless of the consequences or desires of the electorate; that they pushed Mr. Brown over the top. He said clearly that he would go to Washington to stop the whole abominable process in its tracks, and the voters of Massachusetts sent him forward to do exactly that. Ignoring the public seems to be causing annoyance, out there on the hustings …
The results of Senator-elect Brown’s victory continue to reverberate in ways both gratifying and amusing. In the Congress, there are now calls for caution, for deliberation and even for that old war-horse, “bipartisanship” – evidently forgotten in the heady days of a veto-proof majority. Even our own Sen. Bennet is calling for a slowdown – a far cry from his bold statement that he would be willing to trade his seat for an opportunity to support health care. Apparently being unemployed is a more sobering prospect when it appears it may actually happen.
True, there are still die-hards and fire-eaters among the Democrats, who insist that health care, cap-and-tax, amnesty, hypertrophied spending and a slew of other items on the “progressive” agenda be pushed forward regardless of consequences. These include Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-New Mexico), who has called for “reconciliation” in the health care approval process – which would require only 51 votes and has never been used in such a situation, and Dick Durban, (D-Ill.) who has toyed with abolishing the filibuster process entirely.
The White House seems similarly tone-deaf. After a spate of interviews maintaining that the voters of Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to Washington because they were disgusted with the slow pace of “change” – yes, I know, but that’s what they said – the president re-tracked, and returned to his neo-populist bashing of Wall Street and large corporations. The result of his rediscovery? A 500-point decline in the stock market, essentially wiping out all the gains of the past quarter. Words, like elections, have consequences.
So there you have it: the election in Massachusetts, a shot across the bow for the elitists – those confident that they know best for all of us, those convinced that they alone are fit to lead. Will they – who to date have controlled both the administration and the Congress – pay attention, moderating their rush toward the edge of the cliff? Or will they, convinced of the rightness and justice of their vision, press on – taking us over the precipice with them?
This election season is going to be interesting.
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