Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts was lost--and who lost it


It's a much deeper fundamental crisis in the national Democratic Party than has been properly acknowledged--as well as Obama's clearly inept administration-- that's really responsible for the horrendous loss of Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat than anything that Martha Coakley, the DP candidate in Massachusetts, individually failed to do. The senatorial election in Massachusetts in the final analysis had very little to do with Coakley, even though she obviously didn't run a very good campaign. But the simple truth of the matter is that she didn't lose because of that. She lost because a very significant number of white independent voters were sending a loud ugly message to Congress (i.e. the Democratic majority in both houses) and specifically to President Obama that they categorically oppose his reform agenda in healthcare and beyond and they also have no confidence in the weak half-assed and frankly "running scared" positions that Obama has taken on the banks, Wall Street, major corporations, and national unemployment. People are very frustrated, angry and fedup--on both the right AND the left! While it's true that much if not most of the anger on the right is fueled by racism, some of it is also an ideological rejection of Obama's general political and economic agenda and the disturbing sense that many people (not just rightwingers!) feel--and I think justifiably--that both Obama and the Democratic Party generally have failed to seriously address their very real needs and problems in the national economy. Many people on the Left--including myself--also feel that over the past 5-6 months the president and the Senate especially (where Democrats outnumber Republicans 60-40) have fundamentally failed to provide genuine progressive leadership and clarity on healthcare reform, unemployment, financial regulation, and many other pressing domestic policy issues. In addition Obama's absurd decision to send 30,000 more troops to the endless destructive quagmire that is Afghanistan in the midst of this major economic crisis in the U.S. was not only wrong but politically foolish and economically wasteful.

In the end Coakley couldn't do anything about any of that. As it was she still lost by only 120,000 votes out of nearly 3 million votes that were cast. That tells me that not only was there a much smaller democratic voter turnout in this election--in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 5 to 1!-- but that clearly a small but pivotal number of independent and Republican voters in the white suburbs (by far Coakley's weakest demographic in this election--she won a sizeable majority in every major urbanized district within the state) decided that this senatorial election was to be a public referendum on President Obama's agenda and the flailing and clueless Democratic Party majority in the House and Senate. Under these circumstances Coakley--or any other DP candidate in this election except Ted Kennedy himsef-- didn't have a chance in hell of winning this election.

What we all had better remember in the larger context is that President Obama received only 43% of the white vote in the national presidential election in 2008. McCain received 55% of the white vote. This means of course that if the national election for President had been left up to white voters only Obama would have lost the election in a LANDSLIDE to McCain. It is this stark political reality that is taking Obama down now on the right and among independents because the truth is that nearly 60% of white voters have ALWAYS rejected Obama anyway-- and still do. This means of course that without the 81% of the black, Latino, and Asian American voters who voted for Obama HE WOULDN'T BE PRESIDENT TODAY. Black folks cast an incredible 95% of their total votes for Barack (or 15.5 million votes) and Latinos cast 67% of their votes for him which added up to another 16 million votes. Without those 30 million votes we wouldn't even be having this discussion about Obama now because he would have already lost bigtime.

So I say all that to remind us that the reasons for Obama's severe difficulties now can't possibly be attributed only to Martha Coakley. The problem has always been much bigger than that for both Obama and the Democratic Party. Which is all the more reason why the way they've been spending their --and our--political capital is both strategically and tactically suspect at best because they keep trying to foolishly accomodate the Republican party through emptyheaded and self destructive "compromises" that the nihilistic Republicans and the right generally have absolutely NO INTENTION WHATSOEVER of making with them. This is the major reason why Scott Brown--who is to the right of Atilla the Hun AND Sarah Palin-- is the new Senator from Massachusetts. It's basic political ineptitude on the part of the President and the DP and no amount of lofty or apologetic rhetoric can possibly cover up that fundamental fact in this situation. If the President doesn't fight back--and I mean HARD--from this point forward he and the DP will be BURNT TOAST by the midterm elections of November 2010. Because if the Republicans take back Congress Obama won't be able to pass one piece of significant legislation for the remainder of his entire first term! It'll be much worse than the debacle of 1994 when Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Phil Gramm, Richard Armey and all the other super rightwing white supremacist demagogues in the Republican Party took over the House & Senate and effectively crippled the agenda of not only the last two years of Bill Clinton's already heavily compromised first term but also completely paralyzed his scandal ridden second term as well (even the Lewinsky sex scandal was ultimately merely a footnote in that poisonous context).