Lessons From Massachusetts: Punching The Hippies Does Not Work

Let me first state what I think this means for 2012 - it means that Barack Obama will win Massachusetts by double digits and Scott Brown will be unceremoniously dumped as senator from Massachusetts. No matter what the Dems do in response. I start with this view because I think it is important understand what the lessons of Massachusetts are about - November 2010.

Now the Massachusetts result provides many lessons for November 2010. Joe Sudbay cites to analysis by Scott Jensen of PPP:

This was a repudiation of Barack Obama. Certainly Martha Coakley was a bad candidate and ran a terrible campaign but that doesn't change the fact that we found Obama's approval rating at only 44% with the electorate for today's contest, a huge drop from the 62% of the vote he won in the state in 2008. Brown won over 20% of the vote from people who cast ballots for Obama in 2008, and we found that most of those Brown/Obama voters were folks who no longer approve of the job the President is doing. And in one of the bluest states in the country barely 40% of voters expressed support for the Democratic health care bill.

[. . .] -Voters hate both parties right now and that's to the GOP's advantage. One of the most remarkable things about Brown's victory is that it comes even though only 22% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Congressional Republicans, with 63% viewing them unfavorably. He was able to overcome that because almost 20% of voters held a negative opinion of both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans. And with those folks Brown had a 72-24 advantage over Coakley, reflecting the reality that in a time when voters are disgusted with all politicians they'll vote for the one that's out of power.

Things could turn around for the Democrats between now and November but it's hard to dispute the notion that this could be 1994 all over again.

(Emphasis supplied.) I've said this forever - election are first and foremost, a referendum on the governing party. A lot of people have spent they year whistling past the graveyard of poor polling by Dems, because the GOP polled even worse. I hope that form of denial is now dead and buried for good.

This referendum manifests itself in 3 ways - the motivation of Republican voters, the motivation of Democratic voters and the motivation of casual voters. In Presidential election years, the casual voters play a very important role in the referendum. In off year elections, much less so. the enthusiasm levels of Republican and Democratic voters is paramount.

Republican voters are extremely motivated. There is little Dems can do to stop this. That is why moving right for 2010 is a fool's errand. But Dems can motivate Dem voters - by fighting for Dem values. Will that be enough to stave off defeat in 2010? I do not know, but I know it is the only viable option that Dems have now.

As I wrote below, the Senate bill is not perceived as fighting for Dem values. Its passage will not increase Dem voter motivation. The Senate bill has been part of the problem. Perhaps it can be part of the solution if it includes other important steps, not the least of which will be fixing the Senate bill now through reconciliation. But those Establishment Dems who think passage of the Senate bill in isolation is a positive step for Dems are whistling past the graveyard. Standing alone, the Senate bill hurts Dems for 2010, it does not help. As part of an overall push for Dem values, it can be a part of the solution.

Speaking for me only

< Why Conservatives Shouldn't Get the Credit For Coakley's Defeat | A Real Plan B - Understanding The Senate Bill Is Part Of The Problem >
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    Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 08:51:31 AM EST
    well I dont think they aer getting the message.

    "Dems can motivate Dem voters" (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 09:07:22 AM EST
    not by compromise. that ship has sailed I would say.
    I agree with you and the above comment.
    they do not seem to be getting the message.

    and why should that surprise us.  that message has been being sent for months and they have not gotten it.

    When Dem values = people's values (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 09:13:55 AM EST
    "the Senate bill is not perceived as fighting for Dem values."

    In case of health care, I believe that progressive Dem values largely echo what majorities want.  The party has been tone deaf to popular opinion on both health care and financial crisis.

    And when forced to choose between two parties (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 09:33:18 AM EST
    that are just going to take their money and hand it to corporations, be they banks or insurance companies, people will pick the one that promises not to raise their taxes to do it.

    All Dems have done this year is reinforce the Reagan world view - taxes and government are baaad.


    Yet, they will not get it (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 09:24:28 AM EST
    Great analysis.  

    I think Ezra (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by lilburro on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:13:02 AM EST
    actually gets this right today, and first, DOES acknowledge that everyone thought Obama could bring transformational change (unlike as we all remember Kevin Drum).  Ezra:

    Going forward, Obama is going to have to make Washington work without letting the way Washington works drag down his presidency. And that means he'll have to begin speaking to the country more clearly, rather than hoping his accomplishments will speak for themselves. These criticisms are always easy to levy, and communicating to a country of 300 million people that doesn't want to watch long policy speeches is easier said than done. But Obama will have to try, because soon, he will have no other choice.

    To which I say - NO F***ING SH*T!!!!

    I'm punching the inside game/11th dimensional chess folks whose blind faith in Obama enabled him to continuously avoid using the bully pulpit for jack.  The attitude "he won the election for Christ's sakes, he's just so amazing and I'm sure he can handle this" has been apparent among his biggest cheerleaders and worse his administration.    And it is the very essence of an approach that andgarden appropriately labeled technocracy the other day.  Is technocracy transformational?  Anybody want to tell me that?

    everyone did not believe that (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:20:13 AM EST
    Obama could bring transformational change.

    Im just sayin.


    true (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by lilburro on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:22:09 AM EST
    I should say I am referring to those people who say "what can you expect, he's doing what he said he would"...Nate Silver, John Cole, Booman, Ezra, Yglesias, Kevin Drum etc.  The big Obama boosters.

    fair (none / 0) (#10)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:37:33 AM EST

    Ezra and others (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by KeysDan on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:27:38 PM EST
    tend to lose me when they use "going forward".   Or, "on the ground", "bend the curve",  or any of their catchy, in the know, unoriginal, voguish staples to tell me something very important.

    Maybe (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:46:17 AM EST
    Instead of focusing on the fact that Ezra is a little late to the party, let's celebrate the fact that he showed up instead.

    Step 1 (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:55:12 AM EST
    Step 1 is to come up with a plan that does not include a mandate.  If your plan is so bad that you must use the force of law and the threat of fines and jail to get people to buy it, that's a hint that it is too bad to be a political winner.  

    A mandate is a de facto admission that people have better alternatives that they will not gladly abandon.

    love the name know the song (none / 0) (#21)
    by Bornagaindem on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:15:50 PM EST
    Thanx (none / 0) (#31)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 21, 2010 at 08:57:14 AM EST

    I have recordings by five different artists.

    You are right... (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by pmj6 on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:59:49 AM EST
    ...but I think the lesson the Dem elites will learn is, we didn't punch the hippies hard enough.

    Another perspective (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 11:50:49 AM EST
    Punching the hippies DOES work - whining about conservatives does not - especially when a large swath of working class Dems stayed home.


    It was to be the culmination of Ruy Teixeira and John Judis' 2002 book "Emerging Democratic Majority." Judis wrote an essay following Obama's victory headlined, "The Democratic majority: It emerged!" By March 2009, Teixeira authored a 47-page report titled, "New Progressive America."

    But polling painted an American political landscape that had not changed as quickly as its president. Rather, in those months of great hype, it was clear that the "Public Stands Between Reagan and Obama." The enduring American tension with activist government went largely ignored. Obama pressed forward to reverse the Reagan era without the humility of a president who knew that it was not yet his era either.

    Unlike FDR, the first year big government measures were not focused on the economy. The stimulus measure was primarily a big social services bill. The health care bill became the boondoggle of Obama's political capital. The big jobs bill did not come, even as Americans experienced the worst unemployment rate in more than a quarter century.

    Yet Obama won on the economy, above all else. The pretense of realignment always depended on the opposite read. Republicans' implosion, demographic trends and rising progressive values were to have built this new Democratic majority. But we knew from tracking polls that Obama only garnered majority support after the market crashed.

    Obama's mandate was not consumed with the very issue that sealed his coalition. Obama had campaigned on the health care bill. But the economic crisis was the central reason his campaign had won more of the electorate than any Democrat in four decades.

    And Obama did it with the middle. In 2008, Obama's margin with moderates was three times larger than the two previous Democratic nominees. Now that middle is not only moving away from Democrats. It's moving against Democrats.

    Any hope of realignment, however scant, always relied on this broad middle. Enduring majorities depend on courting and marrying the least ideological voters. Yet these same voters care more about spending and are more skeptical of activist government than the public at large. They also despise partisanship.

    The health care debate became a magnet for all these anxieties. Meanwhile, Washington had saved Wall Street. But absent the new New Deal, Main Street was put on hold. Obama appeared on the wrong side of the issue of his time.

    The worst stereotypes of liberalism, as spendthrifts, were affirmed with the stimulus. The best stereotypes, fighting for the middle class, were undercut with the focus on health care over jobs.

    The middle class was fixated on fears of extending joblessness and decimated retirement savings. Most of them had health insurance. The working class was losing the bulk of the jobs. That's all they feared.

    This is no Democratic dream. And the cost is a blue reality. It was not that the dream was impossible. But the dream was only possible with the right actions. And the right moves depended on the right read of the political environment.

    Now the liberal dream will have to be set aside for Obama to have a second chance in a second term. The next three years will not see the sweeping change of Obama's promise, but the incremental change more common to Washington. Gone is climate change legislation. Gone is a major jobs bill. Gone is a more progressive health care bill. And the bill itself is now at great risk.

    If a 2+ yr Senator could run and win in 2008 (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 12:13:38 PM EST
    don't think it can't happen in 2012. My rightie co-workers are telling me all about what a star Brown is going to be.  I know it is partly their post-win euphoria, but I think Sarah Palin has just been knocked off the stage.

    He's even prettier than Palin (none / 0) (#19)
    by Cream City on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:05:29 PM EST
    and has an acceptable accent.

    Funny if the Palin-haters find out that there are worse out there.  And that at least she kept her swimsuit on in the beauty contest, huh?

    But couldn't the Brown foes have fun!  Instead of those inescapable flipflops on sticks that kept showing up at every Kerry event, we could put staplers on sticks.  Or have staplers in hand to keep clicking, clicking, clicking at Brown events.


    Seriously (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:25:21 PM EST
    Am I the only one around here who is honest enough to admit that picture was smokin' and he was a hottie? (And still is, come to think of it...)  If that's all I knew about him, I wouldn't care about his politics!

    If this is the prescription: (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by shoephone on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 12:25:43 PM EST
    "But Dems can motivate Dem voters - by fighting for Dem values"

    then those Dems who do the motivating are going to have to be the primary challengers. Because the Dem voters who are so discouraged now will not buy into any acting performances from the same incumbants that have been kicking them in the teeth for the past year.

    And even with some new faces in the mix, I'm not sure it can be accomplished. Not by November 2010 anyway. I see MA as a tipping point.

    I agree Brown will be dumped but (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Bornagaindem on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:13:09 PM EST
     I don't see any hope that the DNC and Obama will turn around and all of a sudden fight for dem values. THEY DON'T HAVE ANY. They will make the calculation that Obama is still above 50% and with all that money he can raise from his banker and big pharma and health care buddies that he can dupe the american people ( and the stupid dems that will be afraid to defeat him in a primary) to vote for him one more time. After all dubya pulled it off.

    So I hope that they will  learn  the right lesson but I gave up on hopey changey before it was kool to give up hopey changey.

    You mean the hippy's who snipped (none / 0) (#9)
    by SOS on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 10:26:00 AM EST
    their ponytails and traded them in for the corporate life or Wall Street in the 80's?

    I am not sure Obama coasts in 2012 (none / 0) (#15)
    by Manuel on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00:31 PM EST
    Unless the economy improves between now and then and there is progress on the war front he will face primary challengers and may not even run.

    I do keep thinking about (none / 0) (#18)
    by Zorba on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 12:55:18 PM EST
    LBJ.  He won re-election handily in 1964, and by 1968, largely because of his escalation of the Viet Nam War (although there were other reasons), he had become so unpopular that he decided not to run again in 1968.  If a significant number of jobs are not created, if we are seen to be mired down in Afghanistan, if the Senate version of the health care bill passes (which people on both sides hugely dislike, except for the Villagers) then Obama will continue to be more and more unpopular, and I think you may well be proven right about him not running again, Manuel.

    Obama is no LBJ (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by BrassTacks on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 03:23:39 PM EST
    LBJ was the consummate politician and a realist.  Obama is neither.  His ego would never let him step aside nor would ever be realistic enough to think that he would lose the election.

    You make a very good point, BrassTacks (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Zorba on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 03:38:04 PM EST
    If Obama was half the politician that LBJ was, we would have already had real health care reform (with a strong public option at the least).  I'm thinking, though, that others in the Democratic Party might put a lot of pressure on him not to run, if they see him going down in flames and bringing the rest of them with him.  Of course, Obama could just ignore them.

    And just cut off the roll call again. (none / 0) (#29)
    by Cream City on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 07:31:06 PM EST
    LBJ (none / 0) (#27)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 03:37:42 PM EST
    Also had the experience and alliances in the Senate to know how to work things. He could say things as president and then twist enough arms to do that.  I think after this 3rd loss in a year, the gloss is coming off the Obama machine a bit and those up for re-election are going to be running away from him and are not going to be scared of any strong-arm tactics he might try to use.  I think privately they'd laugh at him at this point.

    This election was not a referendum on anyone (none / 0) (#24)
    by ericinatl on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:39:20 PM EST
    It was about America's love of the underdog.  The party in power, the Democrats, were perceived as too powerful.  Not because of their ineptitude or lack of governance or the government bailouts or the health care plan.  Just because Americans do not like power too concentrated.  They like checks and balances.

    And the democrats claiming that they needed this election to cement their agenda, only cemented Coaklye's loss.  Not because American's don't like Obama or the agenda.  Just because they like the underdog.

    Plus, Brown looks awfully good half-naked.  

    So stop the hand wringing.  It was bound to happen.

    PS The dems still control the Presidency (none / 0) (#25)
    by ericinatl on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:43:21 PM EST
    the house and the senate (by 59 to 41).  So stop your belly-aching and get back to work.  I'm so tired of all this worrying about the next election.  Do good work and the results will follow.

    Like the analysis (none / 0) (#30)
    by McKinless on Thu Jan 21, 2010 at 12:11:46 AM EST
    That the country (Massachusetts) is repudiating a progressive agenda makes little sense to me. Obama/Democrats don't have a progressive record in the last 12 months. It makes much more sense that there is unhappiness at not doing enough about jobs, banksters, healthcare. Frustration abounds and is reflected in the vote for Brown.