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Why Did Coakley Bomb in Massachusetts? Ask Aesop

One day a hare saw a tortoise walking slowly along and began to laugh and mock him.
The aftershocks from the political earthquake that just occurred in Massachusetts will extend to the first Tuesday this November. Democrats are dazed and reeling from what should have been their easiest electoral victory in the nation. Martha Coakley, their candidate, was 30 points ahead in the race only weeks ago. Look up the word complacency in the dictionary and you may see her photograph alongside the definition. [For younger Whistleblower readers, a dictionary is a large volume that fossilized folks like myself still consult for word definitions and correct spellings.]
The hare challenged the tortoise to a race and the tortoise accepted. They agreed on a route and started off the race.
After Coakley prevailed in the primary election by 19 points on December 8th, she vanished. I guess she felt entitled to a Senate seat that Democrats controlled for nearly 6 decades. While she was AWOL, Scott Brown plodded on, putting one foot in front of the other, and pursued the strategy that most successful politicians advocate – meeting voters. I’m no political expert, although I did handily win an election to the illustrious office of Ninth Grade Vice President several decades ago. I suspect, however, that most voters want candidates to actually campaign and earn their support.
The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time.
The GOP national leaders wisely stayed on the sidelines. The Democratic leadership unwisely made the same choice. Only at the race’s conclusion, as Coakley was leaning over a cliff, did President Obama try to apply a Band-Aid to a corpse. The President and his advisors, in a John Kerryesque moment, were against coming to Massachusetts to stump for Coakley, until they were for it.
Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he'd sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep.
The President made fun of Scott Brown’s truck. Even as a high school candidate for higher office, I knew that you never, ever make fun of someone’s truck. I’m sure that when the President uttered these words, that David Axelrod had an apoplectic reaction. This might be even worse than referring to voters as 'bitter clingers of guns & religion'. It’s okay to make fun of a candidate’s BMW, or even a Lexus, but don’t touch the pickup.
The tortoise, plodding on, overtook him and finished the race.
Those who study campaigns, or should study them, will be studying this one for a while. This was a political bombshell. As expected, the blame game is in full operation. While a circular firing squad seems appropriate, some are scapegoating Republicans as the ‘Party of No’ in the wake of their electoral debacle. If I were a Democrat, I would suggest a different strategy. Coakley didn’t lose because of the nefarious ‘Party of No’. She lost because liberal Massachusetts, a Democratic bastion, became the ‘Electorate of No’. They soundly rejected the current versions of health care reform. Most blame Coakley. Many blame the Democratic Party. Some blame the GOP. I blame the health care reform plans and the opaque and tawdry process that created them. Those whom we elected to serve us nearly succeeded in forcing a plan that most of us reject right down our throats.  If they wouldn’t gulp it down in Massachusetts, they won’t swallow it in the rest of the country either.
The hare woke up and realized that he had lost the race.
Huh? What happened?

Slow and steady wins the race!


  1. The story of the tortoise and the hare is extremely apropos for the Scott Brown vs. Martha Coakley campaign. Between Obama making fun of Scott Brown's truck and Coakley accusing Curt Schilling of being a Yankee Fan, those two statements were the kiss of death for Coakley's election. Obama and Coakley truly exemplified just how out of touch both they, and the other Democrats are with average Americans.

  2. Great analysis of the election. And you are so right on about the truck! I
    think the election results show disgust with the Senate and Congress, health
    care reform, the banking and housing crisis and the disconnect between
    government and the populace. Mass. Reflects the nation on this one and the
    Dems better do an about face. "It's the economy, stupid". (Of course lets
    not forget that 8 years of Republican horror got us into this mess)

    Toni Brayer, MD

  3. I laughed about the truck- in fact, it perfectly represents the idiocy of electoral campaigns: "Vote for me- I drive a truck!" We deserve what we get when we vote on the basis of that kind of appeal. As for picking a Republican because a voter doesn't like the current process, that's like saying the policeman didn't do a good enough job catching the mugger, so we're going to fire the policeman and hire another mugger to rob me again. In other words: the Republicans created the mess, and the Democrats aren't doing a good enough job cleaning it up (which they aren't- no argument there). So put in another Republican to make it infinitely worse. That probably makes sense to the 51% who voted for Scott Brown.

  4. Nice post. Scott Brown may not be as much of a sailor as Ted Kennedy was, shame.

    Leave it to Massachusetts to become the linchpin in a national issue. I'm sure Florida is happy to pass the baton!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Have you seen many (any big names?) attribute the defeat of Coakley to the fact that ObamaCare would penalize states that had their own provisions? MA is alone in this. (It also penalizes states that have limits on malpractice awards. but that's something you've no interest in :) ).

    So MA voters, who saw Coakley as a rubber stamp, chose Brown. "If the rest of the country wants healthcare, they're on their own; we've got ours." I'm not saying that contributed directly to Brown's win, but is probably a factor. Has there been a poll that plumbed for that thinking? I doubt it cuz we don't hear it.

    And this is Massachusetts after all. He seems to be a "moderate" Republican, so who knows whether or not he turns into the next Specter or Voinovich or Collins? He may double-cross MA voters yet and go along with the Dems on some slight variation on HR3200. Wouldn't that be special?

  7. FYI: "Brown tells AP he'll sometimes side with Democrats"

    See? It hardly took any time at all. I'm no great seer, just an engineer. And Scott Brown is just a man, and a politician at that, and he hails from Massachusetts. QED.

    You were definitely correct in assaying that he's not harebrained and in seeing that Coakley was.

  8. Pascal, it does look like Scott Brown is coming out of his 'shell'.

  9. Hi,

    Great post, and blog! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. I look forward to more updates!

    Take care and hope all is well.


    Director of HealthBlogger Networks


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