A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lights Went Out in Massachusetts

“And the lights went out in Massachusetts, the day I left her standing on her own.” That line from the Bee Gees hit “Massachusetts” must be running through the heads of many people in the democratic leadership tonight as the Republican Scott Brown has been projected as the winner of the special election to fill the remainder of Ted Kennedy’s US Senate seat. I’ll get to my personal thoughts on the race in a minute, but I’ll put my political scientist hat on for the moment and discuss why I think the improbable occurred as a conservative Republican won a statewide race in one of the bluest states in the country. The first Republican to win a Senatorial election since 1972 (interestingly enough, the year I was born).

First: Voter Excitement. The Republicans clearly had the excitement level in this race. One of the many under-appreciated truisms of politics is that races aren’t necessarily won by convincing the other side to switch their vote or even get the undecided voters to break their way. It’s won by getting YOUR voters to the polls and the other side failing to do that. In a sentence, that’s what happened here. Clearly, Republicans and more conservative independents were fired up about the opportunity to send a message regarding what’s been happening nationally over the last year. They are fed up with the federal government’s spending and the health care bill became the prime example of it. In the meantime, the Democrats were NOT excited about Martha Coakley.

I spoke with my cousin last night who lives in Massachusetts in an area that is in a city just outside Boston and he remarked about how many Scott Brown signs he was seeing, but hardly any Coakley signs. And he lives in an area where there were plenty of Obama signs in 2008. While yard signs are not a good indicator of polls, they are a good indicator of voter excitement. You figure if someone is putting a sign in their yard that they are supporting a candidate, they certainly are going to vote come hell or high water. Additionally, the news reports I heard tonight suggested that voter turnout in Boston in the urban areas and in heavily minority areas was down in comparison to the rest of the state. That shows a difference in voter excitement in a much more tangible way. Voter excitement was clearly in Brown’s favor and as I write this 97% of the precincts have reported and he has a five point lead. That excitement clearly was the difference in those five points.

Second: Democratic Overconfidence. Think about it. If I had said after Ted Kennedy passed away in August that a conservative Republican was going to win the special election to fill his seat, you would have laughed me out of the room. I think the Democrats were thinking that way as well. Consider this: Scott Brown’s campaign was going on an ad blitz on this campaign as soon as the primary was over. The Coakley campaign acted as if the election was over once she won the primary. The simple fact is, she didn’t get serious about campaigning in this election until just a few weeks ago. I heard another pundit put it perfectly by saying, when Scott Brown was campaigning actively through the Christmas season, Martha Coakley was, literally, on vacation. It was only after the Coakley campaign realized that it might lose that it sprang into action. By that time it was too late. She had already been labeled by the other side and it was going to be difficult for her to reframe the election at that late hour.

Third: The Candidate. Along with some of the tactical mistakes of her campaign mentioned above, Martha Coakley turned out to be a weak candidate. She was too easily tied to Washington in a climate where people wanted to blame Washington. She also made some out right gaffes. My cousin relayed one to me that happened during the debate. The issue of Iraq and Afghanistan came up and she made a comment that we were no longer fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as we had driven them out. A couple days later the news a several soldiers being killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban drove home just how off that statement was.

All these things added up to a disastrous result for the Democrats and a HUGE victory for the Republicans winning that all important 41st seat in the Senate. I must say I am bittersweet about the result. Those of you who know me and my politics know that I still consider myself a moderate Republican and I enjoy seeing the party have a victory. I also feel that the Democrats deserved it for essentially setting this scenario up. Prior to 2004, the interim Senator appointed by Governor Patrick would have stayed in office until 2012, completing Senator Kennedy’s term. But in 2004, the Democrats changed the law because at the time they were worried about Republican Governor Mitt Romney appointing a replacement for John Kerry if he had won the presidential election against President Bush. So in some respects, the Democrats deserved this for trying to change the rules last time.

However, those of you who have followed my blog lately, know that I have been in support of the health care reform that is currently being debated. If this election ends up spelling the defeat of that legislation, I must say that I will be disappointed and for that reason, the result is bitter sweet.

So what now? I must give Luke Russert, of NBC News and son of the late Tim Russert, credit for this line, but I think it’s too good not to reprint – in the words of Axl Rose, Democrats must be asking themselves, “Where do we go now?” In the next day or two, I hope to post what options are available to the Democrats who are still hoping to pass health care reform. For now, I just keep thinking that the Democrats still must be thinking that as for health care reform “the lights [may have] went out in Massachusetts, the day [they] left her standing on her own.”


  1. Questions on my mind this morning:
    1. Is there hope left for a health care bill?
    2. Would the results of the election have been the same if the same two candidates were running in a state that didn't have a health care system that has 97% of the people in the state covered?
    3. Was it a sign of things to come for him that Obama campaigned for Coakley on the eve of MLK day and she still lost?
    4. Every single person I have ever voted for in Mass. has lost!

  2. Simeon:
    1. I'll get to this question in my next post?
    2. That is a very good point. Maybe I'll raise it in my next post.
    3. To be honest, from the polling I saw I think that Obama's presence may have actually just made the margin closer. One poll I saw had Brown up by 15 a few days before the election and another had him up by 9. His margin ended up being 5.
    4. Maybe you need to take the George Costanza "Opposite Approach" & start voting for the candidate you want to lose!