Call it the Bay State bombshell. Call it the rise of independents. Call it the death of health care reform. Call it a victory for Scott Brown.
Clearly, the latter is unequivocally true, as Republican Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley by a margin of 5 percent in a special election to fill the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for nearly half a century.
When President Obama dropped everything he was doing and scurried off to Massachusetts, it was evident that the situation there was critical, and many believed too late to salvage.
Now the Democrats must scramble to see if there’s still time to salvage health care reform, since Brown’s victory means the Republicans have their “41st senator” and thereby the vote they need to filibuster the health care reform measure.
During her concession speech, Coakley acknowledged that Obama had called her and thanked her for putting up a good fight, indicating that “we can’t win them all.” Then, as if to explain why she failed to secure a victory in the blue state, she said: “Anyone who has been out on the campaign trail in this race has seen the anger of folks who are angry and concerned.
They are angry about health care issue and they are angry about our two wars.”
None of these facts were unknown to Coakley, the state’s attorney general, during what many perceive as a lackluster campaign and a Democratic Party asleep at the wheel. Hadn’t they seen the surge of independent voters in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey that brought victories for the Republicans? Hadn’t they read the tea leaves of the Tea Party insurgents or noticed the precipitous shift among the large number of independent voters in Massachusetts?
In the end, Brown commanded 52 percent of the vote to Coakley’s 47 percent, defeating her by more than 50,000 votes. It was a devastating setback for the Democrats and it does not augur well for the upcoming midterm elections in November.
Undergirded by a populist surge, anti-incumbency and a general repudiation of the Obama administration, Brown, 50, a four-year state senator, appealed to voters in the suburbs of Boston, driving around town in a pick-up truck and grounding with the locals. And, unlike Coakley, he knew that Boston pitcher Curt Shilling was not a Yankee fan but a Redsox stalwart.
“I just focused on what I did, which is to talk about the issues–terror, taxes and health care,” Brown, an attorney who worked as a model to pay his law school tuition in the 1980s, told NBC. “We already have 98 percent of our people insured here…in Massachusetts, so we do not need the plan that’s being pushed. We would have lesser care, longer lines and pay higher taxes, and it makes no sense.”
Brown denied he was geared up to derail health care reforms. “I never said I was going to do everything I can to stop health care,” he told the press. “I believe everybody should have health care. It’s just a question of how we do it.”
His victory, without a doubt, has energized the Republican Party, and none is more excited by it than Michael Steele, head of the RNC. “Tonight, Scott Brown made history by exceeding all expectations and defeating Martha Coakley in the heart of the Democrat Party’s political stronghold,” Steele said in a press release. “I extend my sincere congratulations to Scott, the Brown family and his team on their tremendous come-from-behind victory to become the first Republican U.S. senator from Massachusetts in more than 30 years.
“His message of lower taxes, smaller government and fiscal responsibility clearly resonated with independent-minded voters in Massachusetts, who were looking for a solution to decades of failed Democrat leadership. There is no doubt in my mind that Scott will provide the representation and leadership they have asked for and deserve.
“Now that the people of Massachusetts have made their choice clear, the Senate must move quickly to seat Senator-elect Brown so that the people have their chosen representative in the Senate as soon as possible,” he continued. “Over the past year, independent voters in Virginia, New Jersey and now Massachusetts have made their voices heard by sending a clear message that they’ve had enough of the binge spending and government-growing agenda coming from Washington–Democrats everywhere are officially on notice.”
“Seat Brown now,” was a chant from his supporters, apparently concerned that the majority Democrats in the Senate might decide to push through the health care bill before Brown is sworn in. Some Democrats have already expressed a desire to do so, but this would not be a wise move, others contend.
Even so, there is discussion about a possible two-step process that would have the House accept the Senate’s bill and resort to a reconciliation move that would require only 51 votes. But this, too, might only further anger the so-called Blue Dog Democrats and hamper the fate of future bills.
“Please don’t let your disappointment at Obama lead you or your friends into political passivity…because the alternative if you do that is Sarah Palin and the Tea Party extremists and the haters and fundamentalists, all of whom are now momentarily dressing themselves in the language of populism, but all of whom will actually only give even more power to the elites of wealth and power,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, representing a group of spiritual progressives who had warned Obama about such an outcome.