I generally keep this as a non-political space, except when it comes to Burritos. However, I have been encouraged by several people to blog my views about the results of the Senate race in Massachusetts, so they might receive (a little) broader exposure.
I generally don’t bother complaining about media coverage of political events. As we become more polarized, the mainstream media echoes, which is a type of laziness. Laziness manifests itself in superficiality. We see events covered in terms of 2012-type apocalyptic cycles, reoccurring every week. Routine events that transpire in accordance with long-set rules are treated like world-changing, mind-blowing, shocking new phenomena. Who won or lost this cataclysmic shift in the political world today? This becomes more important than actually engaging with the issues in a substantive way. For these reasons, I do not often complain or worry about the way media characterizes a political issue.
But sometimes it is important to examine who lost and why. Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley last week in a generally liberal state, Massachusetts, winning Teddy Kennedy’s seat. This is not as shocking as it appears*. Scott Brown did not change the world. The Democrats are not over as a party, just as the Republicans were not finished after the 2008 election or after they elected infamous fool Michael Steele to run the RNC. Also, I don’t believe this has anything to do with Barack Obama.
First Ancient Electoral Rule: If you are a douche with rock-solid hair and you are a Republican, you can really make a run! This has been a truth since Presidents started having hair instead of wigs.
You see, Massachusetts has been electing douchebag Republicans for quite some time. Remember Mitt Romney? They elected him! I doubt many in my generation would remember William Weld. TOTES DOUCHE. We can go back in history and look. Henry Cabot Lodge! Love that guy. In fact, until Deval Patrick won in 2008, every Governor of that state since Dukakis left in 1991 has been a Republican. A Republican is not shut out of a state-wide race in Mass.
Second Ancient Electoral Rule: If you run an interesting, exciting candidate that changes it up, you will (or are more likely to) win. If you run a party hack, you will fucking lose.
How often do we see the chosen candidate who views their run as their “turn” get trampled by some out of nowhere new face? How often do we have to see it until we stop running people who are an anathema to the idea of a meritocracy? A party hack did not rise through the ranks necessarily by merit. Rather, they rose from patronage or special interest adoration. We see Coakley, who ran a lazy and uninspired campaign, gets trounced by an exciting, albeit vapid, new candidate. A friend told me Coakley ran like 19 events last month, while Brown ran 66. Apparently, she was excited to lose because she got to hang out with her dogs (WTF?)! I had a friend, a fellow field organizer in the Obama army, who lives in Boston and offered to lead a canvassing team. He was shrugged off. They told him that they were focusing on calling. [SUB-RULE TO RULE #2: Obama campaign team training. First day. We were taught that canvassing improves turnout significantly and phone calls increase turnout not at all. If you want to know more, read this CLASSIC STUDY.]
You win elections not by mobilizing the base, but by mobilizing the independents. Independents don’t get psyched up enough to vote for just anyone. In fact, going to the polls isn’t even guaranteed for them. So how do you maintain the attention of someone who doesn’t want to pay attention? You excite them. You might be good looking, you might have an impassioned speaking voice, you might run a smartly designed and eye-catching campaign system, most importantly you might represent different ideas and policies (though this is happening less and less these days). You might get your base so excited that they share the enthusiasm with the independents. In my perfect world, a fresh candidate would actually be elected on greater merit than the party hack (though this is a questionable view). Either way, party hacks don’t win over independents easily. Given Rule #1, the Democrats should have known they couldn’t just offer up some dead fish and expect it to win, violating Rule #2. I don’t buy the argument put forward that there was no one else willing to run. I find it very difficult to believe that in Massachusetts of all places there weren’t any exciting alternative candidates available. I find it more likely that they were shut out by an incompetent state party.**
So, moral of the story: Keep your chin up. These things happen all the time. It’s not the end of the world.
*I understand it dooms health care, I am sad about that, but this post is not about health care.
** Be advised that I actually know next to nothing about state politics in MA.
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