Not one to comment on broader political issues but just can’t help myself today after awakening to the news that Kennedy’s Senate seat has gone to the Republican upstart Scott Brown. Whatever happened to carrying on Kennedy’s legacy for healthcare reform, something Martha Coakley vowed to support and Brown vowed to defeat? Has Massachusetts really gone Red (or just a lighter shade of Blue)?
Reflecting on my own thoughts and vote for Martha, have come up with the following missteps of Martha’s that ultimately led to her losing what was considered a sure thing, Kennedy’s seat in Congress.
1) Assuming the cat is in the bag. Skating to an overwhelming victory in the Democratic primary, Martha naturally assumed that Kennedy’s seat was her’s for the taking. Sure, the Republicans would put someone on their ticket, a sacrificial lamb, but a serious contender, no. Surprise, surprise. Yes, the Republicans put forward a relatively unknown State Senator from a small community, but this unknown Scott Brown proved to be an extremely engaging and aggressive politician. By the time Martha’s political machine realized that they had a serious challenger on their hands, it was too late, his momentum too great.
2) Forgetting Tip O’Neill’s most famous quote, “all politics are local”: Martha’s stump speeches spoke often of carrying on the agenda for change that brought Obama to office. That resonated well with the Democratic faithful (and Democratic leadership) but like the rest of the nation, Massachusetts voters are increasingly independent, siding with neither party, instead looking for a candidate that will be their voice in Washington fighting for their specific needs and concerns. Martha’s “voice” was not her own, was not that of the Massachusetts electorate, but that of a political machine which is increasingly being viewed as detached from the current reality of most citizens in the nation, Massachusetts included.
3) Failure to engage and capture the imagination: What can I say, listening to Martha speak was about as exciting as watching spring thaw of a frozen New England pond. As much as I can not stand the majority of Brown’s positions (against healthcare reform, still thinks climate change is not anthropomorphically induced, likes to use the terrorism scare tactics of the Bush era, etc.) I have to admit, he was an engaging and dynamic speaker.
This vote is not necessarily a vote against Obama and his policies, despite such pronunciations in numerous right of center publications. No, this was a local election about local issues. The candidate that won was the one who was most successful in taking the pulse of the local electorate, empathize with their concerns and reflect back to them that he understands and will do something about it.
Now it is Washington’s turn to get out of their stretch limos and connect to the local populace and begin addressing some of the very real issues and needs of the body politic or risk losing more than the passage of a Bill before Congress.