Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I don't normally talk much about politics here -- as opposed to policy -- because it's not my particular expertise, and there are lots of other blogs you can go to if you want to obsess about the subject. But I do feel compelled to comment on the special election yesterday as a citizen of Massachusetts. (Don't blame me, I'm from Jamaica Plain.)

The victory of Scott Brown seems just about bizarre, in a state that is known as the most liberal in the nation, over Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, at a time when everybody knows that the consequence of electing Brown is the total obstruction of Democratic initiatives for the foreseeable future and a completely dysfunctional congress. Is that really what Massachusetts voters wanted? Of course there is that clueless contingent who are quoted as voting for Brown because they don't want civilian trials for terrorists and similar nonsense, but they have always been here. That isn't what swung the election.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Democratic Party in Massachusetts has become a self-serving, inward looking, incestuous institution that is almost entirely disconnected from its base of voters and doesn't seem to exist for any reason but to provide its politicians with jobs, to which they believe they are simply entitled. Martha Coakley was a perfect exemplar. Her first act upon winning the primary was to go on vacation for two weeks. Then she did not deign to actually campaign, radiated entitlement, and repeatedly expressed contempt for the voters and the ordinary rituals of campaigning.

She isn't one of the cronies of the party establishment in Boston, so they didn't go to work for her. The Mayor never even endorsed her, as far as I know. Why should they care if she wins or loses? She isn't one of them.

Finally, Coakley and the Democrats didn't give people a reason to vote for her. People are scared right now, about their jobs if they're lucky enough to have one, and about ending up sleeping in their car if they aren't that lucky. The threat from Islamic terrorists is not truly serious, but it creates an inchoate dread that is easy raw material for demagogues. Yet the Democrats seem to be giving away their money to Wall Street plutocrats, they aren't getting jobs, and they aren't hearing the sort of rhetoric, empty though it may be, that will reassure them about their safety. (The Dems don't actually have to do anything differently. It's all about style here.) Worst of all, they have spent the past six months playing Capitol Hill inside baseball with health care reform without bothering to explain what they are trying to do and why it is important; while they seem to be ignoring the real and immediate pain that many people are feeling.

Why this party cannot get its act together I do not know, but they can't. It shouldn't be that difficult, all their friends are yelling at them, telling them exactly what they need to do, but they're just raising money from bankers to pay their worthless consultants. Without a viable people's party, our political system is irredeemable. But that's where we are.


robin andrea said...

I'm glad to read your perspective on this. Coakley ran a bad race, and now we have an even more broken congress. I found this interview (Bill Moyers and Thomas Franks) pretty interesting. The Democrats simply don't own the political ideology anymore. They can't represent both Main Street AND Wall Street, and we know the choice they have made. Interestingly, though, they still lose on the old ideals. Oh well.

robin andrea said...

The interview link goes nowhere. Try this:

roger said...

their act IS together. it's the act of sucking money from the rich and powerful.

C. Corax said...

Coakley didn't campaign during the primary, either. At least not in western Mass. She never showed for candidates' debate in November on the Amherst campus, and when the public radio station offered every candidate an hour-long listener call-in, her campaign never even replied.

She didn't deserve to win the nomination, but that fact that she won it without lifting a finger certainly didn't give her any sense of urgency. I have a right wing brother. I know how much the rabid right loathed Kennedy and wanted to win this thing. Could she really have been that clueless?

At least John Stewart made me laugh about it.

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