Congratulations, Martha! I awoke only a few moments ago, but the morning news cycles are all abuzz and atwitter with the joyous trumpeting of your resounding victory over the spineless, dead-vote-gathering Republicans that have sucked at the bottom of the bucket of Buzzard’s Bay bilge we know affectionately as Beacon Hill. You defeated the odds, you gathered the votes, overcame hardship and the ramblings of known Yankee Fan at-large Curt Schilling, and upon the gusts of an electoral whirlwind which would put Ted Kennedy to shame; you have delivered the promise of an uncompromised (until now) health care bill.
Seriously? This is Massachusetts. How do you lose a democratic campaign in a state that is bluer than a drowning man? In all seriousness, the answers are simple. You lost this campaign for a (hardly) complex web of reasons. You were the perfect non-candidate. You cruised through a primary by providing cookie-cutter answers with the occasional liberal dismissal of real world issues (cough, Afghanistan, cough), never deigning to lower yourself to the serious debate raging between your primary opponents. Scott Brown didn’t. You didn’t show up to the debate hosted here at UMass, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Scott Brown did. You took your election to the Senate for granted, treating it more like an inevitable succession than a legitimate race with a crucial impact on the course of the national political and legislative landscape. Scott Brown didn’t. You made it seem like, and (in some instances) convinced us that you didn’t care. Scott Brown did.
Worry not, though. You are not the only person to blame. Anyone who told you that you could and should win this is also to blame. Anyone who voted for you in the primary is also to blame. Anyone who didn’t recognize that Representative Michael Capuano was a far superior candidate is also to blame. The Boston Globe shares some of that blame for their confusing and pie-in-the-sky endorsement of Alan Khazei for the Democratic nomination, lending an element of chaos and confusion to a very serious campaign. Steve Pagliuca running a campaign of any sort didn’t help. I have no clue how many people voted for him simply because he co-owns the Celtics, but it was too many. They share some of the blame, to be sure. But the bulk of the blame lies undeniably with you. This seat – Ted Kennedy’s seat – was yours for the taking. Instead of taking the seat seriously, you took it for granted. Thus slips away President Obama’s filibuster-proof majority. The Kennedys are rolling in their Arlington Cemetery graves.
An election like this must serve as the ultimate warning against political hubris and miscalculation. Our country was teetering on the edge of disaster only a year ago, and thanks to decisive action from President Obama, we’re inching away. In times like these, we cannot afford to tether ourselves to the failed policies of the past nor throw our support behind those who hold their fingers to the political winds and speak quietly from their lecterns. Yet there is silver lining, Martha. Though this is a most woefully ominous precursor to the midterm tsunami rolling our way this fall, there is one lesson to be learned, though the fact that Democrats haven’t learned it by now boggles the mind. You never – never – take an election for granted. You fight until you have nothing left inside you, and then you fight on. Who needs sleep? You can sleep when you’re dead. You stand up and shout your beliefs from a megaphone when no one listens and when everyone listens.
Take a moment to once more reflect on the gravity of all that you have wrought, Martha (or in the case of Health Care reform, unwrought). Massachusetts – the only state to vote against Richard Nixon in 1972, the first state to provide universal health care and marriage equality to all of its citizens, the national bastion of liberalism and progressive thought – has just sent a hawkish, reactionary conservative to Washington to fill the seat that Ted Kennedy, Charles Sumner, and Daniel Webster once held. Scott Brown? How unworthy. How utterly opposed he is to all those values which have come to define us as citizens of this Commonwealth. He is no more a voice for the people of Massachusetts than George W. Bush was for the United States. His views do not reflect our virtues, nor the better angels of our nature. From the election of Scott Brown at the hands of your criminally incompetent campaign, Democrats across the country will draw political wisdom. Your loss, though a bitter pill, is the necessary dose of reality which Democrats needed to swallow. If they take their medicine, then who knows? Maybe you’ve saved the Democratic Party.
So Congratulations, Martha.
Charlie Felder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.