A Richly Deserved Humiliation
by Alexander Cockburn, January 29, 2010
Republican Scott Brown takes over a seat held by the Kennedy family for over half a century and the dark cloud already hovering over Obama's White House thickens. By any measure the energetic Brown's emphatic defeat of Martha Coakley, believed only a month ago to be a sure thing as Ted Kennedy's replacement, is a disaster for the Democratic Party and for President Obama.
Coakley, a former prosecutor and attorney general of Massachusetts, ran a dumb, complacent campaign, allowing Brown, a state senator, to charge that she seemed to believe she had an inherent right to the seat. Coakley ladled out platitudes; Brown, pelting about the Commonwealth in a manly GMC truck, made the Democrats' health reform bill his prime issue, which was scarcely rocket science, since people of moderate income accurately believe that "reform" is going to cost them money, with zero improvement in overall service.
A year after his inauguration Obama has disappointed so many constituencies that a rebuke by the voters was inevitable. Yesterday it came in Massachusetts, often categorized as the most liberal in the union. This is entirely untrue. It's a disgusting sinkhole of racism and vulgar prejudice, as five minutes in any taxi in the state, listening to Talk Radio or reading the local newspaper, will attest.
Brown's achievement is not novel. His type of Republican has been elected governor in Massachusetts three or four times in the last 18 years by the real "majority party" --which is the "unenrolled" independents who are 1 and 1/2 times the size of Democrats in number among registered voters and tower over the Republicans of whom less than 12 per cent are registered as such.
CounterPuncher Steve Early, a labor organizer in the state wrote to us on Monday that Brown is in the mould of two recent Republican governors of Massachusetts, William Weld , and Paul Celluci, the latter two actually being backed by later Change to Win local affiliates like HERE Local 26 and the Teamsters. These were genial, likeable, clean-cut jocks, presenting themselves to independent voters as a much needed public rebuke to "an increasingly corrupt, arrogant or personally screwed up Beacon Hill clique of Democrats (see recent spate of House and Senate member/leader indictments, jailings, and/or resignations pending trial). A lot of folks, at the moment, are again just plain pissed about the self-serving political class of Democratic Donkeys who run our one-party state, including the now unpopular Obama pre-cursor, Deval Patrick."
Because the Democratic majority in the US senate is now reduced to 59, the common prediction is that the Democrats' health reform bill is doomed, since it takes 60 votes to override a filibuster, which the Republicans would mount to kill the bill. More likely is that the insurance companie , (which dictated the basic terms of the "reform" and stands to gain millions of new customers who will be forced by law to take out health insurance), will be loath to throw away months of successful lobbying and will dictate some new "compromise" that will allow both Republicans and Democrats to claim victory. Obama will delightedly sign any insurance bill landing on his desk bearing the necessary label, "reform".
Certainly Coakley's resounding defeat is grim news for Democratic politicians limbering up for the midterm elections this coming fall. The parallel is with the midterms of 1994, when voters, furious at the bumbling failures of Clinton's first two years, handed both the senate and the house to Republicans for the first time in decades. Obama has caused fury and disillusion across the spectrum. The nutball right bizarrely portrays him as a mutant offspring of the Prophet Mohammed and Karl Marx, demonstrating that cretinism flows more strongly than ever in Uncle Sam's bloodstream. The Republican small business crowd tremble at the huge deficits. The independents see no trace of the invigorating change pledged by Obama. Working people in the labor unions who supplied the footsoldiers for Obama's campaign see no improvement in their economic condition. Everyone knows that Obama is the champion of bankers, not bankrupts. The liberals morosely list twelve months of disasters, from a wider war in Afghanistan, to major betrayals of pledges to restore constitutional restrains after eight years of abuse by Bush and Cheney.
Obama richly deserves the rebuke from Massachusetts. Armed with a nation's fervent hopes a year ago, he spurned the unrivalled opportunity offered by economic crisis to do what he pledged: usher in substantive change. He's done exactly the opposite . Wall Street has been given the green light to continue with business as usual. The stimulus package was far too weak. The opportunity for financial reform has passed. Trillions will be wasted in Afghanistan.
A final note on Coakley. She rose to political prominence by peculiarly vicious grandstanding as a prosecutor, winning a conviction of 19-year old child minder Louise Woodward for shaking a baby to death. An outraged judge later freed Woodward, reducing her sentence to less than a year of time served. Then Coakley went after headlines in child abuse cases. Innocent people are still rotting in prison as a consequence of Coakley's misuse of her office. For this alone, regardless of the setback the Democrats richly deserved, I rejoice in her humiliation.