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In Defense of the “Emily’s List candidate”

(note from Dkat:  Please welcome our own Wonk the Vote to the front page)

Yesterday on MSNBC during the Ed Shoutz hour, before the big election results were in, Ed posed the following question throughout his show: Is the Massachusetts senate race a referendum on Obama? One of his guests was Salon editor Joan Walsh. With a straight face Joan said that “this is not any kind of a referendum on President Obama, it is a referendum on Martha Coakley.”

After the race was called for Scott Brown, Walsh was on MSNBC again and went further out of her way to take the low road, saying “feminists need to put on their grown-up pants” and “take their lumps.”

Meanwhile, Paul Begala over on CNN one-upped Walsh, chastising Coakley for running “the worst campaign from a Democrat that we’ve seen since I don’t know when… Ms. Coakley mocked Brown for going out to Fenway Park where they were having a hockey game outdoors, and shaking hands. She mocked him for that. She said Curt Schilling, for goodness sakes, was a Yankee fan. You know, just on and on.”

Looking at the actual substance and context of what Coakley said about Fenway Park, it was a sarcastic response to the dismissive notion that she was wasting her time at the inauguration of Kimberly Driscoll, the mayor of Salem. (For the record, Coakley won Salem, 53% to 46%). Still, it was a foot-in-the-mouth remark that did not help her win the PR battle, no doubt. Her “Curt Schilling…another Yankee” gaffe did her no favors, either, and her spokesperson trying to pass that remark off as a “very, very deadpan joke” only highlighted the fact that her campaign was desperate by that point.

None of these missteps, no matter how clumsy they were, is what cost her the election, though.

What these missteps did was reinforce a caricature of Coakley that emerged only after she reversed her position on health reform and said she would vote for the current bill as it stands. That flip was her original electoral sin. THAT was the essence of her “bad campaign.” Once she did that she was up against a tidal wave of voter disaffection that ripped apart her every comment and her every move, and she responded poorly to it. She instantly turned into a deer caught in the headlights, and it wasn’t because she didn’t have it in her to be a good senator or to run a good campaign.

The Obama apologists want to play the Blame Emily’s List card. They think shaming feminists–telling them that Martha ran a a bad campaign so suck it up–is the Get Out of Jail free card for Obama and the rest of the Democrats.

When will the Activist Left work together to support Women when they Make Good in Politics?

There is more to Martha Coakley than the one-dimensional cartoon that Begala and the rest of the mainstream media would like viewers to believe. She is a hard-working woman who has been in public service for 20 years. She is not a poor little lady who doesn’t understand politics, nor is she an elitist shrew who thinks it’s beneath her to connect with voters. She understood the politics of the primary race very well and connected with voters then, even as Caroline Kennedy was saying one of Coakley’s opponents winning would be amazing.

The “bad candidate” rationale for what happened in Massachusetts is inadequate as an explanation, and so is the “local issues” excuse. Emily’s List produced a winning primary candidate (they backed the candidate who won the popular vote in the 2008 primaries too for that matter). It’s the Obama Era of the Democratic party that has created bad electoral conditions for Democratic nominees and made it difficult for liberals to stand on principle. (Even the socialist in the U.S. Senate voted for Obama’s health insurance scam. Way to discredit the right-wing canard that Obama’s terrible policies are synonymous with socialism.)

The one surefire way to avoid becoming the target of local backlash against Obama is to run against Obama’s policies–and in today’s environment where the activist left is split up along deep fault lines (“submit to party unity or else you’re a certain class of politician, voter, or woman”), Democratic nominees do not have the benefit of a ready-made independent fundraising network to take on the Obama machine during a general election yet. Of course they could try to build one, but either way it is an uphill battle and there is no easy path to victory whatever they choose.

The “new kinda politics” that progressives were so giddy about in 2008 is exactly what strong-armed Coakley to cave and reverse her initial position that she would vote against Obamacare. And, we saw the result of that last night. The seat occupied by Ted Kennedy for 47 years has gone to a Republican who won by running against the signature “reform” effort of Barack Obama. Obama has dropped the torch that Kennedy passed to him in 2008. Whether he or any of the Democrats can pick it back up remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t hurt the Obama apologists to take their own lumps and learn from the mistakes the Democrats have made. Either that or they will need to put on their grown-up Depends before they watch the returns in November.

If the Dems want to get back on their feet, they need to kick the moles out of NPR

Tokyo Rose

So, the Wurlitzer is on full crank and the Villagers are all a-twitter about how the Democrats took the country too far left.  Of course, that’s what they would say.  They’re THE VILLAGERS.  They are paid to keep the status quo nice and comfy for themselves and their friends. I’m going to let the Democrats in on a little secret:

No one on the left pays any attention to them anymore.

Yep. It’s true.  The Washington Post and the NYTimes could be spending the money they pay those courtiers on beefing up their international news bureaus.  People might actually start reading their papers again.

Frankly, my Dems, we don’t give a damn what David Brooks or David Broder says anymore.  We only pay attention to Joe Klein because his stupid musings are so easy to debunk and his name is, well, amenable to juvenile mockery.  Paul Krugman *used* to be our goto guy but he’s lost the plot recently and thinks that propping up Obama is more important than actually Change!™ing things.

But people have to still get their news from somewhere.  I gave up TV news of all kinds last year.  I don’t watch network or cable “news” of any kind.  I got sensitized to the propaganda and now, whenever I hear the prepared talking points with just the right psychological spin, I break out in hives and can’t breathe.  No, now I’m forced to surf the net both domestically and internationally and sift through the information with the skills of a professional data miner looking for nuggets of truth among the truthiness.

Not everyone has the time to do this.  So, verily I say unto you Democrats who are wringing your hands that your message is failing to get out among all of the “Americans are really center right people” and “Obama is a socialist” BS, don’t forget about NPR and the Public Broadcasting System.  I used to be a faithful listener and donater to NPR news programming for nigh on 20 years, ever since I was in college.  But during the Bush years, the place got so infested with GOP moles and taken over by the “both sides of the story are equal” folks that I don’t listen anymore.  Planet Money was pretty good for the first couple of months until their sponsors became the same kinds of companies they were reporting on.  My morning and evening commutes are now podcast only hours.

One thing you guys failed to do, (ok, one of the THREE things you failed to do right after 1.)failing to elect the true Democrat and 2.) handing the keys of your party apparatus to a bunch of neo-liberal jerks from Chicago who cut their teeth at Enron) was you failed to control the message.  Maybe you can’t restore the fairness doctrine right away, not that you shouldn’t at least try, but you didn’t make use of the tools you have.  You have the power of the purse.  You could get rid of the “Wealth Management” underwriters.  You could have kicked Steve Innskeep type guys to the curb and restored NPR to its former glory of reporting fairly and accurately instead of turning the place into a incubator for Juan Williams and Mara Liason who took their Tokyo Rose acts to Fox News.

In fact, why *didn’t* you do all of those things when you had a chance?  Republicans with your numbers would have done it.  Sometimes, I have to wonder about your personal safety in a room with sharp objects.

So, if you don’t want to lose your shirts and reputations this fall, and it looks like that’s where you’re headed if you don’t do something quick, you’d better shore up your messaging machine and push left as hard as you can.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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The morning after – Mass. hysteria

GOP’s Brown wins Mass. Senate race in epic upset
In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to win the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, leaving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office.
Brown led by 52 per cent to 47 percent with all but 3 percent of precincts counted. Turnout was exceptional for a special election in January, with light snow reported in parts of the state. More voters showed up at the polls Tuesday than in any non-presidential general election in Massachusetts since 1990.

Kennedy’s son: Voters are ‘wanting blood’
The son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy says a Republican victory in the race for his father’s Senate seat is a sign that the American public is out for “blood.”

As election returns came in Tuesday night, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) said it’s clear that voters wanted “a whipping boy” for all the lost jobs and foreclosed homes.

The Hill:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that angst voters have expressed early this election year is the result of GOP obstructionism, not the Democrats agenda.

Axelrod Sounding Awfully Kind About Scott Brown
“My hat’s off to him.”

The president’s adviser, David Axelrod has praise for Brown and oblique criticism for Coakley today. It’s amazing how quickly a helping hand becomes backhanded when it comes from the White House, no?


A clever Brown campaign + a bad campaign by Coakley + local issues = the White House spin in the event of a Coakley loss. Considering how stingy the White House generally is with praise for any foe (including citizens at Tea Parties), the pro-Brown element of this spin seems telling.

Brown Win Forces Democrats to Re-Evaluate Health Care Reform Game Plan
Though Democrats have discussed ways to fast-track the legislation so as to send it to President Obama’s desk before Brown gets sworn in, cracks in the Democrats’ resolve started to show Tuesday night.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said it would “only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Brown is seated.”

Ezra Klein:

There will be more to say on all this tomorrow. For now, it’s worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind? If they’re not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.

Jonathan Alter:

Is this a wake up call for President Obama? Yes. Does he need to show that he is listening more? Sure. But should this election kill health care? Don’t be ridiculous. Who elected Massachusetts to decide for the rest of the country whether we move forward on the bill?

What else is happening this morning?

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