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article imageOp-Ed: The Message From Massachusetts, For Both Parties

By Johnny Simpson     Jan 20, 2010 in Politics
The armchair quarterbacking has begun in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's stunning victory in deep blue Massachusetts. Yet in its wake, many in both major parties seem to be seriously misinterpreting the results. Dangers abound for all in November.
In the wake of Republican Scott Brown's stunning Senate victory in deep blue Massachusetts, the jubilation, celebrations, recriminations, finger-pointing and Left-Right media interpretations of what it all means has begun in force. Martha Coakley's campaign is blaming the White House and national Democrats for the loss via complaints of weak support. Senior party leaders have responded by pointing to Coakley's lackadaisical approach to the campaign following her primary win in December, at which time she held a thirty-point lead in the polls over the heretofore unknown Republican state senator from Wrentham. Curiously, neither side in that dispute has attributed the historic loss to greatly unpopular liberal Democrat policies in Washington, which are at the very root of Coakley's failure. Bay State voters have even said as much, loudly and repeatedly.
Conversely, national Republicans are slapping themselves on the back hard enough to cause spinal injuries. GOP Chairman Michael Steele called the race "a model for future campaigns" in a Wall Street Journal oped earlier today, boasting of a national under-the-radar "stealth" campaign by the GOP that caught Democrats completely flat-footed. Yet Mr. Steele's enthusiasm, as well as that of all Republicans, should be greatly tempered by the fact that it was not so long ago the GOP was cast out of its perch of power in Washington in force. It would seem that voters hold Democrat failures in just as much contempt as those of Republicans these days, and have very short political fuses given our current economic situation. I don't see that changing anytime soon, even with Scott Brown's Spartan-like victory. Both brand names are damaged goods with the American electorate now. Even Chairman Steele is highly unpopular with most Republicans.
The response from most Democrats in Washington to Brown's win has been mixed. Wisely, few seem to underestimate the debacle of losing liberal lion Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to an upstart Republican, the first elected to the US Senate from the Bay State in thirty-eight years, and who now represents the end of absolute power in the Senate for Majority Leader Harry Reid by breaking up liberal Democrats' 60-vote super-majority. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana stated that the message from Brown's victory is that Americans don't like to be ruled from the Far Left and prefer a more bipartisan and centrist coalition at the reins of national power, a la President Clinton following his own health care debacle and resultant Republican sweep of Congress in 1994. Sen James Webb of Virginia declared that the health care bill should be shelved until Brown is sworn in. Rep. Barney Frank, now a colleague of Sen. Brown's in the Bay State Congressional delegation, stated that the current health care bill is now dead, that Brown should be seated as soon as possible, and that Congressional Democrats should heed the message Bay State voters just sent them.
But just what was the message Bay State voters sent to Washington? That is the real question upon which success or failure rests for both parties in the upcoming November elections. As having once been that strange and rare breed of animal known as a Massachusetts Republican, I will do my best to interpret and break down the election results from my intimate knowledge of both Bay State and national politics. The answers are very basic, and despite Republican giddiness over such tasty news tidbits as Scott Brown's sweeping of Ted Kennedy's home town of Barnstable on Cape Cod, Republicans need to be reminded that they are still on the outside looking in for the most part, and may just remain there if they don't wise up.
Here is my list of important messages both Republicans and Democrats should heed from this election.
1. IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID! It is ironic that one of most recognizable Democrat-originated axioms in American politics, the very one which helped propel its creator Bill Clinton into the White House in 1992, is the same one that is now regularly driving established Democrats out of office in stunning and humiliating fashion. The American economy is broke. So is the government. The nation is drowning in lost jobs and debt. Yet liberal Democrats, drunk with power after the sweeps of Congress and the White House in 2008, chose instead to push a partisan multi-trillion dollar left-wing progressive agenda onto a reluctant American electorate in the midst of an economic depression. That was not the change Americans voted for. Blatant political corruption, a by-product of absolute power, and a shocking lack of promised transparency in government affairs has also soured the electorate on President Obama and the liberal Democrat majority.
Yet in the wake of this resounding clarion call for change in the way things are done in D.C. by perhaps the most true-blue state in the union, some liberal Democrats have chosen to double down on Stupid. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer declared that the Brown victory was the result of voters being upset with GOP obstructionism, despite the fact that the central platform of Scott Brown's successful campaign was his promise to obstruct the health care bill as the 41st vote against it. Supporters even chanted "41!" at Brown's victory rally last night. President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also seem to be digging in their heels, promising to push their unpopular tax-and-spend agenda forward as though the Massachusetts Miracle never happened. The real question now is, how willing are dazed Congressional Democrats to follow Hoyer, Pelosi, Reid and Obama et al over the progressive cliff?
Even in the best of times, such sweeping high-priced legislation as ObamaCare and Cap-and-Trade are dicey prospects at best with the American public. President Clinton found that out the hard way when his health care legislation (known at the time as HillaryCare) went down in flames, and resulted in GOP sweeps of the House and Senate in 1994. That all happened in relatively good economic times. The unemployment rate was only 6.7% nationally in January 1994, as compared to 10% or more today. Throw in a recent poll showing that a majority of Americans want smaller government, lower taxes and fewer services, and the writing is on the wall for any politicians smart enough to read it, take heed and, most importantly, follow up on those goals while in office.
The important lesson for both parties here is simple: cut wasteful spending, focus on jobs and stimulating the economy. That is Job One for Congress and the White House in desperate economic times. The days of government spending itself into oblivion also seem to be a wit's-end proposition for most voters now. Republicans were swept from power in 2008 in part because of high spending that went against the grain of most conservatives and Independents. Given that Republican presidential candidate John McCain was an uninspiring, high-spending, amnesty-favoring RINO, most voters who would normally get out the vote for a conservative Republican candidate instead sat out the election. Some even voted for Obama to spite the GOP and send them a message. Much as, say, true-blue liberal Democrat Massachusetts just voted to spite the DNC and send them a message. Cuts both ways. Which leads us to our next loud message.
2. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENTS: Despite a 3-to1 advantage of Democrats over Republicans in the Bay State, Independents rule. Democrats constitute 37% of the electorate in Massachusetts, Republicans 11%. Independent and unaffiliated voters constitute a whopping 51% of the Bay State electorate. They are the game changers. They came out in force for Barack Obama in 2008 and again last night for Scott Brown, voting a staggering 70% for the Republican candidate. Even worse for Democrats, 20% of normally reliable Democrat voters swung to Brown. In any national election in any other state, that figure would be a devastating statistic for liberal Democrats. In Massachusetts, it is Apocalypse Now.
Independents, who constitute up to 40% of the national vote and without whom neither party can win elections, swept Republicans out of power in 2008 and ushered Democrats in. Yet in New Jersey, Virginia and now Massachusetts, Independents led the charge in driving normally viable long-established Democrat candidates out of office on a rail. Fact is, Independents are a fairly moderate breed and detest extremism and corruption on both sides of the political aisle, especially with regard to spending taxpayer dollars like drunken sailors. They didn't like it when Republicans did it, and they obviously like it even less now. The key tenet of American politics historically is that the electorate votes with its wallets. In this negative political and economic environment, that tenet would now appear to be the rule. It would behoove D.C. politicians to start working a lot harder to put more money into those wallets through jobs and real private sector stimulation, not emptying those wallets even further with higher taxes and even more profligate spending. If they want to keep their cushy perk-laden jobs, that is.
3. LOUSY CANDIDATES CAN LOSE IN LOUSY TIMES: In any relatively normal and uneventful political environment in America, lousy candidates from both parties can thrive. Many do. It would be no surprise to me to find out if Martha Coakley ran similarly abysmal campaigns in the past. Voters frequently and even repeatedly elect candidates who are dull and uninspiring at best on nothing more than party loyalty. Like the old saying about ugly buildings and whores, many politicians even become respectable over time as their electorate grows comfortable with them. Examples. Despite Brown's historic Bay State win, Republicans shouldn't get overly giddy and waste their time or money trying to rout Barney Frank or John Kerry. It would make Don Quixote sparring with windmills seem sane by comparison. It is still Massachusetts, after all.
That said, in a stable and relatively quiescent Bay State political environment, Martha Coakley would now be preparing to assume the Senate throne Ted Kennedy bequeathed to liberal Democrats, most likely after a double-digit drubbing of a relatively heretofore unknown Republican state senator (one of only five in the state legislature). That's SOP in the Bay State. But we are not in a normal political environment in America. Furthest thing from it. As a result, what would normally be routine and relatively uneventful campaign gaffes, written off by a loyal electorate as par for the course, are magnified exponentially. That is because in tough times, the voters are paying a lot closer attention to events than they normally would during a boon.
Example. Ex-New Jersey Democrat Governor Jon Corzine's negative ad slams overtly implying that Republican Chris Christie was a donut-chomping fat boy might have at one time only stirred Democrat amusement and Republican annoyance in the Garden State. It probably wouldn't have sunk Corzine's candidacy. However, in combination with all the other negative political factors in play in that race, including the perceived political arrogance on the part of national Democrats in D.C. and corruption allegations surrounding Corzine, that rank insult stuck out like a flaming Hindenberg. It was Christie who won the fat boy argument in self-deprecating fashion on Imus' radio show, and eventually the race with Lean Corzine.
Even for Massachusetts, Martha Coakley was an uninspiring candidate. Brown was just the opposite. Yet being inspiring is nowhere near reason enough for a Republican to win elections in Massachusetts, never mind Ted Kennedy's old seat. We're talking about a state that not only re-elected the seemingly emotionless and ACLU card-carrying Michael Dukakis to the state governorship numerous times, but also sent him down the Yellow Brick Road toward the White House. In any other time, Coakley might have even survived her magnificent gaffe in calling Red Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. Hell, John Kerry still won Massachusetts in 2004 by 12 points over George W. Bush despite declaring that his favorite Red Sox player was Manny Ortez, a botched mixing of Red Sox stars David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez's names.
But this is not 2004. It's 2010. In this volatile political environment that simple gaffe by candidate Coakley, compounded by other gaffes and campaign flubs, significantly deepened the perception that she was completely out of touch with voters. In addition, had Martha Coakley rushed to D.C. for a quick bag job to snare lobbyist bucks as recently as 2008, it might not even have made the local news. But in the wake of the closed-door sweetheart deals in the ObamaCare bill for the favored pharmaceutical lobbyists Coakley rang up, favored unions like the AFL-CIO and SEIU, and favored states like Nebraska and Louisiana, all of which non-favored Bay State voters who already have universal health care would have to subsidize, that trip stuck out like a hammered thumb. Voters were watching. Yet another message sent. For candidates of all political persuasions, the political landscape in America is now as harsh and radioactive as Ground Zero at Los Alamos. Which brings up the greatest danger of all for candidates of both parties in November.
4. END THE CORRUPTION! For many decades now, corruption has been endemic in municipal, state and federal governments. Nothing new there. Both parties routinely run candidates who promise reform and real change, yet once in power they seem to forget who elected them and why. They become beholden to the lobbyists and special interests who funded their campaigns, or promise to fund and support them in the future. They also become beholden to their national parties to the point they don't even read their own bills anymore. Some entrenched reps even scoff at the idea! How bad is that? In addition, should politicians refuse to toe the line on issues important to their party, they risk losing critical national support and funding for re-election. This sentiment was perhaps best summed up in President Obama's recent not-so-veiled threat to Democrat Rep. Pete DeFazio of Oregon: "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother."
Perhaps President Obama, and all members of both parties, would be well advised that threat cuts both ways. More than at any time in my adult life, American voters are keeping precise scores on how their candidates are performing in office. In these deeply troubled economic times, The Electorate Giveth and the Electorate Taketh Away, often within eyeshot of each other. President Obama marked his first full year in office today with one of the most stunning and humiliating Democrat defeats in American history. That said, even Senator-elect Brown is not safe from such intense scrutiny, despite the populist wave of enthusiasm that propelled him into office. Up for re-election in 2012, should Senator Brown not fulfill the promises of government oversight and responsibility sworn repeatedly by candidate Brown, I can guarantee you that predominantly liberal Bay State voters will have no problem whatsoever replacing a failed and disappointing Republican Senator with one of their own. Even Coakley could beat him then, Yankees gaffes and all.
5. IN SUMMATION: Within the space of fourteen months, both national parties have enjoyed stunning upsets and endured humiliating defeats. In my adult lifetime, I do not recall such radical swings of the political pendulum in so short a period of time. Four simple words explain that situation to me: the arrogance of power. Political power can be like a surgeon's scalpel. It can be used for great good or great harm. Improperly handled, that same scalpel can inflict serious wounds on those who wield it.
Americans are sick of the arrogance of power in both parties. Endemic corruption and the abuse of political power have bankrupted this nation. The tit has been wrung dry, and the American people know it. As a result, the richest nation on earth now stands on the verge of total financial collapse when it should be flush with cash and rainy day funds. No longer can politicians assume safe passage through election cycles. They will have to earn it from here on out. The message the American public sent to Washington via the GOP wins in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts is both loud and clear. Fix the economy. Help businesses create jobs, even if only by getting out of the way. Set aside the expensive agendas and stop spending us into oblivion. Quit with the pork projects like John Murtha's self-serving and near-deserted Airport to Nowhere in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which has eaten $200M in taxpayer dollars, and another $1.4M in the boondoggle stimulus bill which the Senate refused to strip funding from last September.
The stimulus bill, as written and passed, did nothing to stimulate private sector jobs, or maintain the promised 7.5% unemployment rate if passed. Neither did it prevent the worst case 8.9% rate promised if the bill didn't pass. In fact, all it seems to have done is to create or maintain state and federal government jobs and sinecures which consume tax revenues instead of generating them, fund massive pet pork projects, and to bail out tanking state governments deep in the red. We Americans are now witnessing double-digit unemployment and record deficits, yet Democrats are insisting on another stimulus bill in the same mold as the first: lots of government spending, crumbs for the private sector. We American voters have a term for that: good money after bad. A stimulus package of $787B in tax breaks and incentives for businesses would most likely have gone a lot farther in stimulating the economy and pulling us out of this mess.
In this depressed economy, perhaps the best use of government and taxpayer resources today would be to step up small business grants and corporate tax incentives, as well as lowering other business taxes significantly to stimulate hiring, job growth and economic expansion in the private sector. It would also behoove liberal Democrats in Washington, President Obama in particular, to set aside his increasingly unpopular health care and Cap-and-Trade bills for the duration. As long as businesses like Zoll Medical Systems stand to suffer huge losses with the passage of ObamaCare and Cap-and-Trade, hiring will remain at a standstill as long as those cost-jacking bills hang over businesses like financial Swords of Damocles.
Some words of caution regarding civility in office. It would behoove liberal Democrats to quit blaming Bush for all their problems. Bush is long gone from office, and is currently paired with Bill Clinton in helping Obama raise money for Haiti. Whether they like it or not, Democrats own this economy and two wars now. The Blame Bush mantra may have worked superbly in 2006 and 2008, but it didn't save Coakley, Deeds or Corzine, and it won't save Democrats at the polls in November. It's beyond worn thin with a struggling, overly-taxed and short-fused electorate which now perceives liberal Democrats as corrupt mirror images of Republicans and Bush. Speaking of Bush, it would also behoove liberal Democrats to stop branding political and policy opponents as right-wing redneck racist teabagging political terrorist Nazis, slanderous monikers now being applied in incomprehensible fashion to the highly educated and most egalitarian Bay State voters by many liberal pundits today. We're all Americans here. Do the right thing and be civil about it, or you may find that those same "political terrorists" will be the ones blowing you up at the polls in fairly short order.
All that said, there is much to be wary of in November for Republicans, too. I recently re-registered as an Independent after 29 loyal years as a surefire across-the-board conservative Republican vote over my disgust with the GOPs arrogance and sacrificing of the Party's core political values for expediency, lobbyist support or popularity on the D.C. cocktail circuit. Whatever the reason, no more. They will have to earn my vote from here on out. All of them. Like most Americans, and now most Bay Stater voters it seems, I will no longer look at just the brand. I will look at the candidates. Once elected, I will look closely at their actions in power. If they break their campaign promises by succumbing to corruption or acting against the interests of those who elected them, I will act to fire them, too. Brown, McDonnell and Christie included.
Many recent polls have confirmed that which I have always suspected: that America is and remains a center-right nation. We Americans expect our duly elected officials to act in the best interests and traditions of American government. If not to those high ideals, we at least expect them to follow key tenet of the Hippocratic Oath:"First, do no harm." Unfortunately, D.C. politicians from both parties have done incredible harm to this nation over time. We Americans are now standing on the edge of a financial and economic abyss. It is the duty of those who brought us to this precipice to pull us back from the brink. Partisan bickering won't cut it anymore. It's time for politicians to roll up their sleeves and clean out the financial Augean stables the tax-and-spend policies of both parties have contributed mountains to. Finger-pointing to who piled up all the crap and complaining doesn't cut it anymore. Time to break out the shovels and dig.
In this rather lengthy oped I have specifically avoided hot button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration and other politically troublesome subjects. Those are contentious ideological issues. The economy is Job One. The financial and economic problems in America today affect us all in most every possible way, and the repercussions of those effects have been extremely negative in nature for all of us. The American people have found that truth to be self-evident. It's been reflected over and over at the polls these past fourteen months, and may be reflected yet again en masse in November. If "Kill the Bill" was the rallying cry of Scott Brown's revolutionary campaign, the rallying cry for the American electorate come November is fast becoming "Throw The Bums Out!" If so, party will not be a factor. Only job performance.
I will predict here and now that should these negative trends of high-spending, overt lobbyist influence, pork, corruption and the shoving of expensive unread bills down the American people's throats continue unabated regardless of the party in power, Americans may just choose the nuclear option of a third national party. Past attempts by third parties to secure a national footing in Washington have only wound up providing spoilers like Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Doug Hoffman. The political environment appears far more fertile for such an alternative now, much more than any time I can remember. The degree of voter discontent and disgust in America today cannot be underestimated. Given that Bay State voters just handed the reins of Ted Kennedy's seat to an upstart Republican in one of the most historic upsets in American politics, combined with the stinging Democrat losses in New Jersey and Virginia and the mass GOP drubbing in 2008, lead me to believe the nuclear option is fast becoming a viable one to the American electorate.
Remember one thing. Had Doug Hoffman not lost 6% of the vote to departed RINO candidate Dede Scozzafava, he would today be the Independent representative from New York's District 23. And despite BOTH major parties doing everything to sink his grassroots-fueled candidacy, he very nearly pulled it off. Considering that newly elected NY-23 Democrat Rep. Bill Owens broke four major campaign promises in the space of one hour of his being sworn in, Doug Hoffman may yet assume that job in November. If Hoffman does win, it will largely happen because of Bill Owens exercising a shocking arrogance of power before his seat was even warm. To quote our President, "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother."
Last word. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, two former Presidents, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, men who are about as far apart as you could get in so many ways, are working hand-in-hand in the best American traditions of bipartisanship and mutual cooperation to aid in alleviating the unimaginable suffering in Haiti, and to jump-start the Herculean task of repairing that shattered island nation so that Haitians now seeing only darkness might yet see glimpses of hope and illumination in the near future. If Republicans and Democrats need a model to operate on and run the government by, that is perhaps the best example. Work together. Quit the bickering. Start rebuilding instead of always tearing each other down. Roll up your sleeves and get the job done the American way. Barring that, I only see more political earthquakes wracking America in November, perhaps even nuclear third party blast waves at the polls. That may seem like a stretch, but just look at what amazing events have transpired in only one year. After witnessing history last night in Massachusetts, I am now convinced that anything is possible.
How this scenario plays out from this day forward is totally Washington's call. At least until November.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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