Tuesday, January 19, 2010

12 Lessons from January 19, 2010

Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley has more than a few lessons for political watchers. Here are a few possible implications:
Democrats have inherited the mantle of responsibility. Blaming Bush for the failures of today has reached substantially diminished returns. Pushing massively unpopular bills on a monopartisan basis just makes that mantle weigh even heavier.

The Democratic brand is damaged. Skepticism about the reach of "progressive" power has been bubbling and seems to be climbing into outright alienation. The national zeitgeist made it possible for Coakley to become a radioactive candidate.

Health-care is an explosive electoral issue. It's somewhat obvious, but it should still be emphasized that health-care was a game-changing issue for the election, one not in the Democrats' favor. This issue is sure to pop up in races across the country.

Party unity is a questionable commodity for Democrats. Look for more Democrats who are interested in salvaging their seats to try to take a more independent tack.

Personalities matter. The growing public discontentment with national Democrats was not sufficient for a Coakley loss. A charming, independent-seeming, fire-in-the-belly candidate could have pulled out a win. Unfortunately for Democrats, this candidate was Brown. Gaffes dogged Coakley's steps during the race and a strategic shortsightedness hurt her campaign as well.

GOP recruiting is going to be easier. If a Republican can win in Massachusetts (note the shocked accent), the sky's the limit!

The GOP is on the road to keeping its position as a national party. It's a long time since about a year ago when many were crowing that the GOP was doomed to being a Southern regional party.

The online right has won a scalp. Online interest and activism was crucial in catapaulting Brown into a contending position. Brown seems to have recognized early on the benefits of social networking sites and to have made the most of them.

Elite distrust is rising. The public seems increasing skeptical of managerial policies of the current governmental elite. Brown was able to leverage this distrust into an electoral win. Look for Republicans and Democrats to try to replicate this strategy later in the year.

A tsunami could be coming in November. If this is a representative electoral appetizer for the Congressional races later in the year, 2010 could be a miserable year for many Democrats.

The public is ready to look beyond tired old antagonisms for new solutions. Coakley tried to resurrect the political oppositions of 2006/2008 in order to bolster her campaign. This attempt failed. Brown ran as an independent-minded, forward-looking figure. The public may be sensing the exhaustion of the political narratives that dominated so much of the first decade of the 2000's. The time is still ripe for "change" candidates.

The fight might just be getting started. It seems as though the Obama administration, rather than moderating its position in the face of this and other losses, may be initially inclined to act even more aggressively and assertively from the left. Time will tell if this is mere posturing---and if Democrats in Congress will want to go along with this approach.

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