The Out Party Gains
Just By Not Being In
When Times are Bad
By Henry J. Stern
January 20, 2010
By now, many people have commented on the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate seat that was held for 47 years by Teddy Kennedy. It has been stressed that Massachusetts is one of the bluest of states, and a Republican victory there is extraordinary.
That is not precisely the case. When I lived (but did not vote) in Massachusetts years ago, Republican Christian Herter was governor. He was later appointed Secretary of State by President Eisenhower when John Foster Dulles resigned because he had cancer. Republican John A. Volpe was elected governor in 1960 and subsequently became Secretary of Transportation in the Nixon administration. Francis Sargent finished Volpe's term, and then was elected on his own. William Weld won the governorship twice on the Republican line. He resigned to seek the ambassadorship to Mexico (his nomination by President Clinton was derailed by Senator Jesse Helms). His lieutenant governor, a Republican named A. Paul Cellucci, finished Weld's term and was elected on his own in 1998. He resigned in April 2001 to become ambassador to Canada. Jane Swift completed Cellucci's term, and was the first governor to give birth while in office. Another Republican, Mitt Romney, was elected in 2002 and served four years.
In fact, Massachusetts is a very independent state at the top of the ticket. Below that it is solidly Democratic, starting with its Congressional delegation. But to see Scott Brown's election as a miracle is somewhat of a stretch.
Speaking of stretching, Brown's candidacy was probably helped by the publication of a nude photograph in Cosmopolitan magazine in June 1982. At the time, Brown was a 22-year-old student at Boston College Law School, allegedly seeking money to pay his tuition. He had graduated from Tufts College in nearby Medford. We have linked to the picture, so you can judge it for yourself. We believe the internet exposure could have helped with people of both genders, giving them a feeling of closeness to the candidate. Compared to what had been published since, the picture is a tasteful photograph of a smiling young man who happens to be unclothed. At any rate, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so people will make their own judgments.
Another factor that helped Brown is that this was a special election, and people who come out to vote often do so with intensity, and for a cause, although voting was relatively heavy. To the extent that Attorney General Martha Coakley was the establishment candidate, and acted as if her victory was assured, she became a target. She had won 47% of the vote in the Democratic primary on December 8, six weeks ago. That was a comfortable plurality over three other candidates, but not a majority in her own party.
There is an American tradition of pulling for the underdog, and Brown was clearly the underdog for almost the entire campaign. Both his names are also more attractive than hers. Scott is modern and Brown is both familiar and appealing, think of Charlie Brown. Martha dates back to George Washington, and Coakley is unusual, unpleasant (think choke or croak), and hard to spell.
There is also a years worth of accumulated discontent with the Obama -- Reid -- Pelosi leadership in the White House and the Democratic congress. The economy is not recovering rapidly enough for the tens of millions of people who are unemployed or underemployed, and the war is not going as well as it might (but better than it probably will). There are many reasons for people to vote against the administration: Jews (who voted overwhelmingly for Obama) are disappointed by his ostensible neutrality between Israelis and the people who want to kill them (and us, if we do not submit), gays are upset at the unkept promise to end discrimination in the armed services, others object to his apparently apathetic attitude (now being recalibrated, a word he used in the Skip Gates v. Crowley controversy) toward our enemies and his disinclination even to utter the phrase "war on terror". Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's infelicitous euphemism for terrorism as "man-caused disasters" does not inspire confidence in her ability to protect us from those disasters.
The election does indicate a serious problem for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, up for re-election in 2010, and already trailing in the polls. Senator John Kerry was just re-elected to a fifth six-year term, and Senator-elect Scott Brown will complete Senator Kennedy's term, which will expire on January 3, 2013. The governorship is definitely in play, since the state has financial problems which are common across the country, and Governor Patrick has not demonstrated any particular gifts of leadership.
The Democrats should not use the unique factors we suggested as contributing to their loss to minimize the result. The bottom line is that people didn't particularly like what they were selling. And why should a state which already has health insurance tax itself additionally to provide such insurance for people in other states? Thanks to a Republican Governor, Mitt Romney, Massachusetts has a health plan. Why go beyond it?
NOTE: The election results indicate again the wisdom of lobbyists for special interests who regularly contribute money to both parties, Democrats and Republicans. You never know for sure which party will come out on top, so why not be on good terms with both? Remember that people who are out of power are often more grateful to their donors than incumbents, who tend to take financial support from special interests as a given. The outs get less mail, so each letter is more valuable.
StarQuest #638 01.20.2010 931wds