Why did the Democrats lose this week in Massachusetts? Brave New Films put this question to Celinda Lake, pollster for the Coakley campaign, and Stephanie Taylor from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Forget the conventional wisdom about moving to the center versus moving toward the base: both parties have been bought and paid for by corporate special interests, Lake argues, and consequently, the Tea Party Patriots have become a more popular political force than either the Democratic or the Republican Party:
The Democrats didn’t lose the Massachusetts Senate race this Tuesday. They lost it over twelve long and agonizing months ago, well before anyone even knew there would be a Massachusetts Senate race in January of 2010.
To put a rough date on it, this race was lost for the Democrats sometime between the 2008 election and the inauguration, whenever it was that the Obama administration made the fateful decision not to challenge Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, AIG and the rest of the white collar criminals that drove the U.S. economy into the ground, and chose instead to appoint Wall Street’s most prominent boosters and apologists to his economic advisory team. It was compounded when the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership spearheaded a healthcare reform strategy rooted in the false notions that the opponents of reform are operating in good faith, that legislation directly challenging the profit motives of one of the biggest industries in America can be achieved by consensus, and that the era of political partisanship is over. And as the Afghanistan war grows ever more disastrous, the political swamp the Democrats find themselves in today will become an inescapable quagmire, in the 2010 midterms and beyond.
When voters look at the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats today, they see little of the ‘change’ they cast their ballots for last November. On healthcare, the White House has been outmaneuvered, out-organized, and outmatched by the health insurance industry from the very beginning, while the Democratic leaders in Congress have allowed the will of the caucus’ majority to be flouted and marginalized by a handful of industry-bought pretenders like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.
Failure over healthcare reform has been a shortcoming of political competence. Worse for the perception of voters in Massachusetts and elsewhere are the cases of the foreclosure crisis and re-regulation of the financial industry. In these cases, the administration has taken a timid stance, abdicating responsibility and even defending the status quo. These were failures not of competence, but of moral leadership. The upshot of this state of affairs in the minds of voters is the continuation of business as usual in Washington DC.
Ted Kennedy’s seat was lost this Tuesday not because voters abandoned Obama’s call for change, but because they continue to embrace it. The truth is that the mainstream of the Democratic leadership has forfeited its claims to that mantle. Voters continue to seek change, but they have found that the solution is not so facile as simply electing Democratic majorities to the House and Senate.
Obama famously instructed us that we are the change we are seeking. That message resonates now more strongly than ever, but only because we have discovered, to our dismay, that it is not to be found in Congress or the White House. This is the lesson coming out of Massachusetts this week: change will come, but its catalyst will not be found in Washington DC. It will have to come from us.